Facebook Places, Brands, Ads & Data

We have been raising concerns about privacy and location data collection and targeting–including with our colleagues at USPIRG.  Facebook’s new location feature is designed to generate more user data that can be used by Facebook and its affiliates to bolster ad and brand targeting.  I want to excerpt this post from one of Facebook’s developers–Vitrue–which illustrates how soon companies like McDonald’s will work with Facebook to harvest local data and our behaviors:

“…A user will open up their mobile Facebook app and be able to see shops, restaurants, parks, areas, etc. that they are near.  They can then check-in to that location.  If a location doesn’t exist, the user can simply create it.  A story about where that person checked-in will be published to their profile and subsequently their friends’ news feeds…Facebook’s massive user-base is a distinct advantage and is likely to generate location-based activity orders of magnitude greater than other companies already in the space. As the leading social network, Facebook is able to capitalize upon the users existing friends, and use their collected demographic and preference data to show users places that it thinks is relevant to them, instead of just places nearby.

How Will Brands Take Advantage of Facebook Places?

With all of these users checking in to locations, what does that mean for brands?  Well if your brand has brick-and-mortar locations, your brand can claim these digital “Places”, turning the locations into Facebook Place Pages.

Brands can choose to merge a Facebook Place Page with an existing Facebook Page, if one exists, and if prompted– the option may not be widely available yet as Facebook is rolling it out over a period of days…

At this time Facebook does not recommend merging your Places with your Page if you are a national or global marketer with more than one location, like a McDonald’s or GAP.  They recommend managing the Places separately and have stated that a solution that will help these types of brands is planned for the future…Currently, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says they aren’t looking to monetize Facebook Places right now, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t in the future.   With Facebook collecting all of this location-based data, it seems like Facebook could allow brands to place highly targeted Facebook ads on the Places Facebook pages.  For example, if your brand’s products are sold in grocery stores, you could potentially place your ads on certain grocery stores’ pages to be viewed by people who’ve checked in.”

In another words, in the world of mobile and location ad targeting, our data will provide marketers with real-time sophisticated insights giving them a rich history of where we spend time and what we do [go to the bank, buy at the pharmacy, eat fast food, etc].  Such “360 degree” targeting, as the online marketers call it, require the appropriate privacy safeguards.

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.