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  • What Facebook Knows

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    The company’s social scientists are hunting for insights about human behavior. What they find could give Facebook new ways to cash in on our data—and remake our view of society.
    Cameron Marlow calls himself Facebook’s “in-house sociologist.” He and his team can analyze essentially all the information the site gathers.
    If Facebook were a country, a conceit that founder Mark Zuckerberg has entertained in public, its 900 million members would make it the third largest in the world.
    It would far outstrip any regime past or present in how intimately it records the lives of its citizens. Private conversations, family photos, and records of road trips, births, marriages, and deaths all stream into the company’s servers and lodge there. Facebook has collected the most extensive data set ever assembled on human social behavior. Some of your personal information is probably part of it.
    And yet, even as Facebook has embedded itself into modern life, it hasn’t actually done that much with what it knows about us. Now that the company has gone public, the pressure to develop new sources of profit (see “The Facebook Fallacy”) is likely to force it to do more with its hoard of information. That stash of data looms like an oversize shadow over what today is a modest online advertising business, worrying privacy-conscious Web users (see “Few Privacy Regulations Inhibit Facebook”) and rivals such as Google. Everyone has a feeling that this unprecedented resource will yield something big, but nobody knows quite what.
    FEW PRIVACY REGULATIONS INHIBIT FACEBOOK
    Laws haven’t kept up with the company’s ability to mine its users’ data.
    Even as Facebook has embedded itself into modern life, it hasn’t done that much with what it knows about us. Its stash of data looms like an oversize shadow. Everyone has a feeling that this resource will yield something big, but nobody knows quite what.
    Heading Facebook’s effort to figure out what can be learned from all our data is Cameron Marlow, a tall 35-year-old who until recently sat a few feet away from ­Zuckerberg. The group Marlow runs has escaped the public attention that dogs Facebook’s founders and the more headline-grabbing features of its business. Known internally as the Data Science Team, it is a kind of Bell Labs for the social-networking age. The group has 12 researchers—but is expected to double in size this year. They apply math, programming skills, and social science to mine our data for insights that they hope will advance Facebook’s business and social science at large. Whereas other analysts at the company focus on information related to specific online activities, Marlow’s team can swim in practically the entire ocean of personal data that Facebook maintains. Of all the people at Facebook, perhaps even including the company’s leaders, these researchers have the best chance of discovering what can really be learned when so much personal information is compiled in one place.
    Facebook has all this information because it has found ingenious ways to collect data as people socialize. Users fill out profiles with their age, gender, and e-mail address; some people also give additional details, such as their relationship status and mobile-phone number. A redesign last fall introduced profile pages in the form of time lines that invite people to add historical information such as places they have lived and worked. Messages and photos shared on the site are often tagged with a precise location, and in the last two years Facebook has begun to track activity elsewhere on the Internet, using an addictive invention called the “Like” button. It appears on apps and websites outside Facebook and allows people to indicate with a click that they are interested in a brand, product, or piece of digital content. Since last fall, Facebook has also been able to collect data on users’ online lives beyond its borders automatically: in certain apps or websites, when users listen to a song or read a news article, the information is passed along to Facebook, even if no one clicks “Like.” Within the feature’s first five months, Facebook catalogued more than five billion instances of people listening to songs online. Combine that kind of information with a map of the social connections Facebook’s users make on the site, and you have an incredibly rich record of their lives and interactions.
    “This is the first time the world has seen this scale and quality of data about human communication,” Marlow says with a characteristically serious gaze before breaking into a smile at the thought of what he can do with the data. For one thing, Marlow is confident that exploring this resource will revolutionize the scientific understanding of why people behave as they do. His team can also help Facebook influence our social behavior for its own benefit and that of its advertisers. This work may even help Facebook invent entirely new ways to make money.
    Contagious Information
    Marlow eschews the collegiate programmer style of Zuckerberg and many others at Facebook, wearing a dress shirt with his jeans rather than a hoodie or T-shirt. Meeting me shortly before the company’s initial public offering in May, in a conference room adorned with a six-foot caricature of his boss’s dog spray-painted on its glass wall, he comes across more like a young professor than a student. He might have become one had he not realized early in his career that Web companies would yield the juiciest data about human interactions.
    In 2001, undertaking a PhD at MIT’s Media Lab, Marlow created a site called Blogdex that automatically listed the most “contagious” information spreading on weblogs. Although it was just a research project, it soon became so popular that Marlow’s servers crashed. Launched just as blogs were exploding into the popular consciousness and becoming so numerous that Web users felt overwhelmed with information, it prefigured later aggregator sites such as Digg and Reddit. But Marlow didn’t build it just to help Web users track what was popular online. Blogdex was intended as a scientific instrument to uncover the social networks forming on the Web and study how they spread ideas. Marlow went on to Yahoo’s research labs to study online socializing for two years. In 2007 he joined Facebook, which he considers the world’s most powerful instrument for studying human society. “For the first time,” Marlow says, “we have a microscope that not only lets us examine social behavior at a very fine level that we’ve never been able to see before but allows us to run experiments that millions of users are exposed to.”
    Marlow’s team works with managers across Facebook to find patterns that they might make use of. For instance, they study how a new feature spreads among the social network’s users. They have helped Facebook identify users you may know but haven’t “friended,” and recognize those you may want to designate mere “acquaintances” in order to make their updates less prominent. Yet the group is an odd fit inside a company where software engineers are rock stars who live by the mantra “Move fast and break things.” Lunch with the data team has the feel of a grad-student gathering at a top school; the typical member of the group joined fresh from a PhD or junior academic position and prefers to talk about advancing social science than about Facebook as a product or company. Several members of the team have training in sociology or social psychology, while others began in computer science and started using it to study human behavior. They are free to use some of their time, and Facebook’s data, to probe the basic patterns and motivations of human behavior and to publish the results in academic journals—much as Bell Labs researchers advanced both AT&T’s technologies and the study of fundamental physics.
    It may seem strange that an eight-year-old company without a proven business model bothers to support a team with such an academic bent, but ­Marlow says it makes sense. “The biggest challenges Facebook has to solve are the same challenges that social science has,” he says. Those challenges include understanding why some ideas or fashions spread from a few individuals to become universal and others don’t, or to what extent a person’s future actions are a product of past communication with friends. Publishing results and collaborating with university researchers will lead to findings that help Facebook improve its products, he adds.
    Eytan Bakshy experimented with the way Facebook users shared links so that his group could study whether the site functions like an echo chamber.
    For one example of how Facebook can serve as a proxy for examining society at large, consider a recent study of the notion that any person on the globe is just six degrees of separation from any other. The best-known real-world study, in 1967, involved a few hundred people trying to send postcards to a particular Boston stockholder. Facebook’s version, conducted in collaboration with researchers from the University of Milan, involved the entire social network as of May 2011, which amounted to more than 10 percent of the world’s population. Analyzing the 69 billion friend connections among those 721 million people showed that the world is smaller than we thought: four intermediary friends are usually enough to introduce anyone to a random stranger. “When considering another person in the world, a friend of your friend knows a friend of their friend, on average,” the technical paper pithily concluded. That result may not extend to everyone on the planet, but there’s good reason to believe that it and other findings from the Data Science Team are true to life outside Facebook. Last year the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that 93 percent of Facebook friends had met in person. One of Marlow’s researchers has developed a way to calculate a country’s “gross national happiness” from its Facebook activity by logging the occurrence of words and phrases that signal positive or negative emotion. Gross national happiness fluctuates in a way that suggests the measure is accurate: it jumps during holidays and dips when popular public figures die. After a major earthquake in Chile in February 2010, the country’s score plummeted and took many months to return to normal. That event seemed to make the country as a whole more sympathetic when Japan suffered its own big earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March 2011; while Chile’s gross national happiness dipped, the figure didn’t waver in any other countries tracked (Japan wasn’t among them). Adam Kramer, who created the index, says he intended it to show that Facebook’s data could provide cheap and accurate ways to track social trends—methods that could be useful to economists and other researchers.
    Other work published by the group has more obvious utility for Facebook’s basic strategy, which involves encouraging us to make the site central to our lives and then using what it learns to sell ads. An early study looked at what types of updates from friends encourage newcomers to the network to add their own contributions. Right before Valentine’s Day this year a blog post from the Data Science Team listed the songs most popular with people who had recently signaled on Facebook that they had entered or left a relationship. It was a hint of the type of correlation that could help Facebook make useful predictions about users’ behavior—knowledge that could help it make better guesses about which ads you might be more or less open to at any given time. Perhaps people who have just left a relationship might be interested in an album of ballads, or perhaps no company should associate its brand with the flood of emotion attending the death of a friend. The most valuable online ads today are those displayed alongside certain Web searches, because the searchers are expressing precisely what they want. This is one reason why Google’s revenue is 10 times Facebook’s. But Facebook might eventually be able to guess what people want or don’t want even before they realize it.
    Recently the Data Science Team has begun to use its unique position to experiment with the way Facebook works, tweaking the site—the way scientists might prod an ant’s nest—to see how users react. Eytan Bakshy, who joined Facebook last year after collaborating with Marlow as a PhD student at the University of Michigan, wanted to learn whether our actions on Facebook are mainly influenced by those of our close friends, who are likely to have similar tastes. That would shed light on the theory that our Facebook friends create an “echo chamber” that amplifies news and opinions we have already heard about. So he messed with how Facebook operated for a quarter of a billion users. Over a seven-week period, the 76 million links that those users shared with each other were logged. Then, on 219 million randomly chosen occasions, Facebook prevented someone from seeing a link shared by a friend. Hiding links this way created a control group so that Bakshy could assess how often people end up promoting the same links because they have similar information sources and interests.
    He found that our close friends strongly sway which information we share, but overall their impact is dwarfed by the collective influence of numerous more distant contacts—what sociologists call “weak ties.” It is our diverse collection of weak ties that most powerfully determines what information we’re exposed to.
    That study provides strong evidence against the idea that social networking creates harmful “filter bubbles,” to use activist Eli Pariser’s term for the effects of tuning the information we receive to match our expectations. But the study also reveals the power Facebook has. “If [Facebook’s] News Feed is the thing that everyone sees and it controls how information is disseminated, it’s controlling how information is revealed to society, and it’s something we need to pay very close attention to,” Marlow says. He points out that his team helps Facebook understand what it is doing to society and publishes its findings to fulfill a public duty to transparency. Another recent study, which investigated which types of Facebook activity cause people to feel a greater sense of support from their friends, falls into the same category.
    Facebook is not above using its platform to tweak users’ behavior, as it did by nudging them to register as organ donors. Unlike academic social scientists, Facebook’s employees have a short path from an idea to an experiment on hundreds of millions of people.
    But Marlow speaks as an employee of a company that will prosper largely by catering to advertisers who want to control the flow of information between its users. And indeed, Bakshy is working with managers outside the Data Science Team to extract advertising-related findings from the results of experiments on social influence. “Advertisers and brands are a part of this network as well, so giving them some insight into how people are sharing the content they are producing is a very core part of the business model,” says Marlow.
    Facebook told prospective investors before its IPO that people are 50 percent more likely to remember ads on the site if they’re visibly endorsed by a friend. Figuring out how influence works could make ads even more memorable or help Facebook find ways to induce more people to share or click on its ads.
    Social Engineering
    Marlow says his team wants to divine the rules of online social life to understand what’s going on inside Facebook, not to develop ways to manipulate it. “Our goal is not to change the pattern of communication in society,” he says. “Our goal is to understand it so we can adapt our platform to give people the experience that they want.” But some of his team’s work and the attitudes of Facebook’s leaders show that the company is not above using its platform to tweak users’ behavior. Unlike academic social scientists, Facebook’s employees have a short path from an idea to an experiment on hundreds of millions of people.
    In April, influenced in part by conversations over dinner with his med-student girlfriend (now his wife), Zuckerberg decided that he should use social influence within Facebook to increase organ donor registrations. Users were given an opportunity to click a box on their Timeline pages to signal that they were registered donors, which triggered a notification to their friends. The new feature started a cascade of social pressure, and organ donor enrollment increased by a factor of 23 across 44 states.
    Marlow’s team is in the process of publishing results from the last U.S. midterm election that show another striking example of Facebook’s potential to direct its users’ influence on one another. Since 2008, the company has offered a way for users to signal that they have voted; Facebook promotes that to their friends with a note to say that they should be sure to vote, too. Marlow says that in the 2010 election his group matched voter registration logs with the data to see which of the Facebook users who got nudges actually went to the polls. (He stresses that the researchers worked with cryptographically “anonymized” data and could not match specific users with their voting records.)
    Sameet Agarwal figures out ways for Facebook to manage its enormous trove of data—giving the company a unique and valuable level of expertise.
    This is just the beginning. By learning more about how small changes on Facebook can alter users’ behavior outside the site, the company eventually “could allow others to make use of Facebook in the same way,” says Marlow. If the American Heart Association wanted to encourage healthy eating, for example, it might be able to refer to a playbook of Facebook social engineering. “We want to be a platform that others can use to initiate change,” he says.
    Advertisers, too, would be eager to know in greater detail what could make a campaign on Facebook affect people’s actions in the outside world, even though they realize there are limits to how firmly human beings can be steered. “It’s not clear to me that social science will ever be an engineering science in a way that building bridges is,” says Duncan Watts, who works on computational social science at Microsoft’s recently opened New York research lab and previously worked alongside Marlow at Yahoo’s labs. “Nevertheless, if you have enough data, you can make predictions that are better than simply random guessing, and that’s really lucrative.”
    Doubling Data
    Like other social-Web companies, such as Twitter, Facebook has never attained the reputation for technical innovation enjoyed by such Internet pioneers as Google. If Silicon Valley were a high school, the search company would be the quiet math genius who didn’t excel socially but invented something indispensable. Facebook would be the annoying kid who started a club with such social momentum that people had to join whether they wanted to or not. In reality, Facebook employs hordes of talented software engineers (many poached from Google and other math-genius companies) to build and maintain its irresistible club. The technology built to support the Data Science Team’s efforts is particularly innovative. The scale at which Facebook operates has led it to invent hardware and software that are the envy of other companies trying to adapt to the world of “big data.”
    In a kind of passing of the technological baton, Facebook built its data storage system by expanding the power of open-source software called Hadoop, which was inspired by work at Google and built at Yahoo. Hadoop can tame seemingly impossible computational tasks—like working on all the data Facebook’s users have entrusted to it—by spreading them across many machines inside a data center. But Hadoop wasn’t built with data science in mind, and using it for that purpose requires specialized, unwieldy programming. Facebook’s engineers solved that problem with the invention of Hive, open-source software that’s now independent of Facebook and used by many other companies. Hive acts as a translation service, making it possible to query vast Hadoop data stores using relatively simple code. To cut down on computational demands, it can request random samples of an entire data set, a feature that’s invaluable for companies swamped by data. Much of Facebook’s data resides in one Hadoop store more than 100 petabytes (a million gigabytes) in size, says Sameet Agarwal, a director of engineering at Facebook who works on data infrastructure, and the quantity is growing exponentially. “Over the last few years we have more than doubled in size every year,” he says. That means his team must constantly build more efficient systems.
    One potential use of Facebook’s data storehouse would be to sell insights mined from it. Such information could be the basis for any kind of business. Assuming Facebook can do this without upsetting users and regulators, it could be lucrative.
    All this has given Facebook a unique level of expertise, says Jeff Hammerbacher, Marlow’s predecessor at Facebook, who initiated the company’s effort to develop its own data storage and analysis technology. (He left Facebook in 2008 to found Cloudera, which develops Hadoop-based systems to manage large collections of data.) Most large businesses have paid established software companies such as Oracle a lot of money for data analysis and storage. But now, big companies are trying to understand how Facebook handles its enormous information trove on open-source systems, says Hammerbacher. “I recently spent the day at Fidelity helping them understand how the ‘data scientist’ role at Facebook was conceived … and I’ve had the same discussion at countless other firms,” he says.
    As executives in every industry try to exploit the opportunities in “big data,” the intense interest in Facebook’s data technology suggests that its ad business may be just an offshoot of something much more valuable. The tools and techniques the company has developed to handle large volumes of information could become a product in their own right.
    Mining for Gold
    Facebook needs new sources of income to meet investors’ expectations. Even after its disappointing IPO, it has a staggeringly high price-to-earnings ratio that can’t be justified by the barrage of cheap ads the site now displays. Facebook’s new campus in Menlo Park, California, previously inhabited by Sun Microsystems, makes that pressure tangible. The company’s 3,500 employees rattle around in enough space for 6,600. I walked past expanses of empty desks in one building; another, next door, was completely uninhabited. A vacant lot waited nearby, presumably until someone invents a use of our data that will justify the expense of developing the space.
    One potential use would be simply to sell insights mined from the information. DJ Patil, data scientist in residence with the venture capital firm Greylock Partners and previously leader of LinkedIn’s data science team, believes Facebook could take inspiration from Gil Elbaz, the inventor of Google’s AdSense ad business, which provides over a quarter of Google’s revenue. He has moved on from advertising and now runs a fast-growing startup, Factual, that charges businesses to access large, carefully curated collections of data ranging from restaurant locations to celebrity body-mass indexes, which the company collects from free public sources and by buying private data sets. Factual cleans up data and makes the result available over the Internet as an on-demand knowledge store to be tapped by software, not humans. Customers use it to fill in the gaps in their own data and make smarter apps or services; for example, Facebook itself uses Factual for information about business locations. Patil points out that Facebook could become a data source in its own right, selling access to information compiled from the actions of its users. Such information, he says, could be the basis for almost any kind of business, such as online dating or charts of popular music. Assuming Facebook can take this step without upsetting users and regulators, it could be lucrative. An online store wishing to target its promotions, for example, could pay to use Facebook as a source of knowledge about which brands are most popular in which places, or how the popularity of certain products changes through the year.
    Hammerbacher agrees that Facebook could sell its data science and points to its currently free Insights service for advertisers and website owners, which shows how their content is being shared on Facebook. That could become much more useful to businesses if Facebook added data obtained when its “Like” button tracks activity all over the Web, or demographic data or information about what people read on the site. There’s precedent for offering such analytics for a fee: at the end of 2011 Google started charging $150,000 annually for a premium version of a service that analyzes a business’s Web traffic.
    Back at Facebook, Marlow isn’t the one who makes decisions about what the company charges for, even if his work will shape them. Whatever happens, he says, the primary goal of his team is to support the well-being of the people who provide Facebook with their data, using it to make the service smarter. Along the way, he says, he and his colleagues will advance humanity’s understanding of itself. That echoes Zuckerberg’s often doubted but seemingly genuine belief that Facebook’s job is to improve how the world communicates. Just don’t ask yet exactly what that will entail. “It’s hard to predict where we’ll go, because we’re at the very early stages of this science,” says ­Marlow. “The number of potential things that we could ask of Facebook’s data is enormous.”
    Tom Simonite is Technology Review’s senior IT editor.
    By Tom Simonite on June 13, 2012 20 COMMENTS
    Find this story at 13 June 2012
    copyright http://www.technologyreview.com/

    How Facebook Uses Your Data to Target Ads, Even Offline

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    If you feel like Facebook has more ads than usual, you aren’t imagining it: Facebook’s been inundating us with more and more ads lately, and using your information—both online and offline—to do it. Here’s how it works, and how you can opt out.
    For most people, Facebook’s advertising system is insider-baseball that doesn’t really affect how we use the service. But as the targeted ads—the advertisements that take the data you provide to offer ads specific to you—get more accurate and start pulling in information from other sources (including the stuff you do offline), it’s more important than ever to understand their system. To figure out how this all works, I spoke with Elisabeth Diana, manager of corporate communication at Facebook. Let’s kick it off with the basics of how the targeted ads work online before moving on to some of the changes we’ll see with the recent inclusion of offline shopping data.
    How Facebook Uses Your Profile to Target Ads
    How Facebook Uses Your Data to Target Ads, Even Offline
    We’ve talked before about how Facebook uses you to annoy your friends by turning your likes into subtle ads. This method of sponsored posts is deceptively simple.
    The most obvious example of a targeted ad uses something you like—say Target—and then shows an ad on the right side or in the newsfeed that simply says, “[Name] likes Target.” What you and your friends like helps determine what everyone on your friends list sees for ads. Any ad you click on then increases the likelihood of another similar ad.
    It’s not just what you and your friends are doing that generates ads though; it’s also basic demographic information. Diana notes that this also includes “major life events like getting engaged or married.” So, if you’re recently engaged and note that on Facebook, you’ll see ads about things like wedding planning.
    When an advertiser creates an ad on Facebook, they can select all sorts of parameters so they reach the right people. A simple example of a parameter would be: “Someone engaged to be married, who lives in New York, between the ages of 20-30.” That’s simple, but advertisers can actually narrow that down to insane specifics, like “Someone engaged to be married, who lives in New York, between the ages of 20-30, who likes swimming, and who drives a BMW.” If your profile fits those parameters, you’ll likely see the ad. If you want to see how it works, you can even try your hand at creating an ad.
    It boils down to this: the more information you put about yourself on Facebook—where you live, your age, where (and if) you graduated college, the companies, brands, and activities you like, and even where you work—determines what kind of ads you’ll see. In theory, it makes it so targeted ads are more relevant to you.
    What Happens When You Don’t Like or Share Anything
    How Facebook Uses Your Data to Target Ads, Even Offline
    The way Facebook targets ads is based a lot around the information you provide. Using your likes, location, or age, Facebook puts you in a demographic and advertises to you. But what happens when you don’t include any of that information on your profile? It turns out that your friends are used to fill in the gaps.
    Chances are, even a barebones profile has a few bits of information about you. You probably at least have where you live and your age. That combined with the information your friends provide creates a reasonable demographic that advertisers can still reach you at. The ads won’t be as spookily accurate to you as if you provide a lot of data, but they’ll at least be about as accurate as a television ad on your favorite show.
    How to Keep Facebook from Targeting Ads Online
    We know Facebook has an idea of what you’re doing online. That can be unsettling if you’re concerned about your privacy and you don’t want your online habits contributing to advertisements, or if you don’t like the idea of Facebook collecting data about you that you’re not willfully providing. You’ll “miss out” on targeted ads, but here here are a few tools to keep that from happening online:
    Facebook Disconnect for Chrome and Firefox: Facebook gets notified when you visit a page that uses Facebook Connect (the little “Like” button you find on most web sites, including ours), and that data can be used to target ads. Facebook Disconnect stops that flow of data.
    Facebook Privacy List for Adblock Plus: This subscription for Adblock Plus blocks Facebook plugins and scripts from running all over the web so your browsing data doesn’t get tied to your Facebook account.
    DoNotTrackMe: DoNotTrackMe is another extension that blocks trackers and anyone who wants to collect your browsing data to create targeted ads.
    Finally, you want to opt out of the Facebook Ads that use your actions (liking a page, sharing pages, etc) to promote ads to your friends:
    Click the lock icon when you’re logged into Facebook and select “see more settings”.
    Click the “Ads” tab on the sidebar.
    Click “Edit” under “Third Party Sites” and change the setting to “No one.”
    Click “Edit” under “Ads & Friends” and select “No One.” This disables Social Ads.
    So, that takes care of the online advertising. Be sure to check out our guide to Facebook privacy for more information about all that. You can also hide your likes from your profile so they’re not as prominant. If you don’t actually mind the advertising, but want to improve the ads shown to you, you can always click the “X” next to any ad to get rid of it.
    The Always Up-to-Date Guide to Managing Your Facebook Privacy
    Keeping your Facebook info private is getting harder and harder all the time—mostly because…
    Read more
    How Facebook Uses Your Real World Shopping to Target Ads
    How Facebook Uses Your Data to Target Ads, Even Offline
    EXPAND
    Of course, you probably knew about a lot of that already. Using information in Facebook profile to target ads is old news, but with a few recent partnerships, Facebook is also going to use what you buy in real life stores to influence and track the ads you see. It sounds spooky, but it’s also older than you may realize.
    To do this, Facebook is combining the information they have with information from data collection companies like Datalogix, Acxiom, Epsilon, and BlueKai. These companies already collect information about you through things like store loyalty cards, mailing lists, public records information (including home or car ownership), browser cookies, and more. For example, if you buy a bunch of detergent at Safeway, and use your Safeway card to get a discount, that information is cataloged and saved by a company like Datalogix.
    How much do these data collecting companies know? According to The New York Times: way more than you’d think, including race, gender, economic status, buying habits, and more. Typically, they then sell this data to advertisers or corporations, but when it’s combined with your information from Facebook, they get an even better idea of what you like, where you shop, and what you buy. As Diana describes it, Facebook is “trying to give advertisers a chance to reach people both on and off Facebook,” and make advertisements more relevant to you. Photo by Joe Loong.
    How Real-Life Ad Targetting Works
    How Facebook Uses Your Data to Target Ads, Even Offline
    The most shocking thing you’re going to find on Facebook is when something you do in the real world—say, buy a car, go shopping with a loyalty card at a grocery store, or sign up for an email list—actually impacts the ads you see. This is no different than any other direct marketing campaign like junk mail, but seeing it on Facebook might be a little unsettling at first. There are a couple reasons this might happen: custom audiences, and the recent partnerships with data collection companies we talked about earlier.
    Custom audiences are very simple and it basically allows an advertiser to upload an email list and compare that data (privately) with who’s on Facebook. Diana offered the simple example of buying a car. Let’s say you purchase a car from a dealership, and when you do so, you give them your email address. That dealership wants to advertise on Facebook, so they upload a list of all the email addresses they have. That data is then made private, and Facebook pairs the email address with the one you registered on Facebook. If they match, you might see an ad from that dealership on Facebook for a discounted tune-up or something similar. Additionally, Lookalike audiences might be used to advertise to people similar to you because you purchased a car there. That might mean your friends (assuming you’re all similar) will see the same ad from the dealership.
    The custom audiences can be used by any company advertising on Facebook. So, if you’re on your dentist’s email list, or that small bakery around the corner snagged your email for a free slice of pie, they can potentially reach you through this system.
    The partnership with other data collection agencies like Acxiom and Datalogix is going to look a little different. This means that when you use something like a customer loyalty card at a grocery store, you might see a targeted ad that reflects that. The New York Times offers this example:
    At the very least, said Ms. Williamson, an analyst with the research firm eMarketer, consumers will be “forced to become more aware of the data trail they leave behind them and how companies are putting all that data together in new ways to reach them.” She knows, for instance, that if she uses her supermarket loyalty card to buy cornflakes, she can expect to see a cornflakes advertisement when she logs in to Facebook.
    A new targeting feature, Partner categories, takes the data collected by these third-party data brokers and puts you into a group. So, if you’re in a group of people who buys a lot of frozen pizza at Safeway, you’ll see ads for frozen pizza, and maybe other frozen foods.
    It sounds a little weird at a glance, but it’s important to remember that this is all information that you’re already providing. Facebook is using data collected by outside companies to create a more accurate portrayal of you so marketers can advertise to you directly.
    How Your Data Is Kept Private
    How Facebook Uses Your Data to Target Ads, Even Offline
    All of this information being exchanged should make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up a little. If anything goes wrong, it could leak a bunch of your private information all over the place. Or, at the very least, marketers would get a lot more information about you then you want like your username, email, and location data. To keep your information private, Facebook uses a system called hashing.
    First, your personal information like email and name is encrypted. So, your name, login info, and anything else that would identify you as a person goes away. Then, Facebook turns the rest of the information into a series of numbers and letters using hashing. For example, Age: 31, Likes: Lifehacker, Swimming, BMW’s, Location: New York, turns into something like, “342asafk43255adjk.” Finally, this information is combined with what the data collection companies have on you to create a better picture of your shopping habits so they can target ads. Slate describes the system like so:
    What they came up with was a Rube Goldbergian system that strips out personally identifiable information from the databases at Facebook, Datalogix, and the major retailers while still matching people and their purchases. The system works by creating three separate data sets. First, Datalogix “hashes” its database—that is, it turns the names, addresses and other personally identifiable data for each person in its logs into long strings of numbers. Facebook and retailers do the same thing to their data. Then, Datalogix compares its hashed data with Facebook’s to find matches. Each match indicates a potential test subject-someone on Facebook who is also part of Datalogix’s database. Datalogix runs a similar process with retailers’ transaction data. At the end of it all, Datalogix can compare the Facebook data and the retail data, but, importantly, none of the databases will include any personally identifiable data—so Facebook will never find out whether and when you, personally, purchased Tide, and Procter & Gamble and Kroger will never find out your Facebook profile.
    From the actual advertisers point of view, the flow of information doesn’t reveal personal details. It just tells them how many potential customers might see an ad. “An advertiser would learn something like, ‘about 50% of your customers are on Facebook,'” says Diana, “But they don’t know who you are.” Image by Jorge Stolfi.
    How to Opt Out of Offline Targetting
    How Facebook Uses Your Data to Target Ads, Even Offline
    EXPAND
    Unlike the internal advertising system that uses the information you already provide to Facebook to give you ads, these new partnerships with real world data collection agencies go way beyond that. Now, they’re able to see what you’re buying at stores offline, and that’s disconcerting for a lot of people. The goal, of course, is more relevant ads, but that comes at the price of privacy and security. With all this data out there, it would be easy to get a very clear image of who you are, where you live, what you like, and even if you’re pregnant. Thankfully, opting out of the data collection companies also gets you out of the integration with Facebook (and everywhere else).
    This process is a lot more complicated than it should be, but the Electronic Frontier Foundation has a step-by-step guide for each of the data brokers. Basically, you’ll need to opt out in three different places: Acxiom, Datalogix, and Epsilon in order to ensure your shopping data in the real world isn’t used on Facebook (and beyond). BlueKai, unfortunately, has no direct way to opt out so you’ll need to use the browser extensions listed in the first section.
    If you really want to keep those loyalty cards from tracking you, just use Jenny’s number (867-5309) at the checkout lane instead of setting up an account.
    Use “Jenny’s Number” to Get Club Discounts at Stores Without Providing Personal Information
    When you go to the grocery store you’re always asked to sign up for a rewards card, which…
    Read more
    Those are the basics of how Facebook’s various targeted advertising systems work. Of course, a lot of complex math and algorithms are in place to actually generate this data, but it really boils down to how much information you’re making public—whether you’re aware of it or not—that makes the system tick. If you like the targeted ads, they should improve even more as the years go on. If you don’t, opting out is always an option.
    Thorin Klosowski
    4/11/13 8:00am
    Find this story at 4 November 2013
    copyright http://lifehacker.com/

    Facebook Tests Software to Track Your Cursor on Screen

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    Facebook Inc.FB -0.24% is testing technology that would greatly expand the scope of data that it collects about its users, the head of the company’s analytics group said Tuesday.
    The social network may start collecting data on minute user interactions with its content, such as how long a user’s cursor hovers over a certain part of its website, or whether a user’s newsfeed is visible at a given moment on the screen of his or her mobile phone, Facebook analytics chief Ken Rudin said Tuesday during an interview.
    Facebook’s Ken Rudin
    Mr. Rudin said the captured information could be added to a data analytics warehouse that is available for use throughout the company for an endless range of purposes–from product development to more precise targeting of advertising.
    Facebook collects two kinds of data, demographic and behavioral. The demographic data—such as where a user lives or went to school—documents a user’s life beyond the network. The behavioral data—such as one’s circle of Facebook friends, or “likes”—is captured in real time on the network itself. The ongoing tests would greatly expand the behavioral data that is collected, according to Mr. Rudin. The tests are ongoing and part of a broader technology testing program, but Facebook should know within months whether it makes sense to incorporate the new data collection into the business, he said
    New types of data Facebook may collect include “did your cursor hover over that ad … and was the newsfeed in a viewable area,” Mr. Rudin said. “It is a never-ending phase. I can’t promise that it will roll out. We probably will know in a couple of months,” said Mr. Rudin, a Silicon Valley veteran who arrived at Facebook in April 2012 from Zynga Inc.ZNGA -0.31%, where he was vice president of analytics and platform technologies.
    As the head of analytics, Mr. Rudin is preparing the company’s infrastructure for a massive increase in the volume of its data.
    Facebook isn’t the first company to contemplate recording such activity. Shutterstock Inc.SSTK +0.11%, a marketplace for digital images, records literally everything that its users do on the site. Shutterstock uses the open-source Hadoop distributed file system to analyze data such as where visitors to the site place their cursors and how long they hover over an image before they make a purchase. “Today, we are looking at every move a user makes, in order to optimize the Shutterstock experience….All these new technologies can process that,” Shutterstock founder and CEO Jon Oringer told the Wall Street Journal in March.
    Facebook also is a major user of Hadoop, an open-source framework that is used to store large amounts of data on clusters of inexpensive machines. Facebook designs its own hardware to store its massive data analytics warehouse, which has grown 4,000 times during the last four years to a current level of 300 petabytes. The company uses a modified version of Hadoop to manage its data, according to Mr. Rudin. There are additional software layers on top of Hadoop, which rank the value of data and make sure it is accessible.
    The data in the analytics warehouse—which is separate from the company’s user data, the volume of which has not been disclosed—is used in the targeting of advertising. As the company captures more data, it can help marketers target their advertising more effectively—assuming, of course, that the data is accessible.
    “Instead of a warehouse of data, you can end up with a junkyard of data,” said Mr. Rudin, who spoke to CIO Journal during a break at the Strata and Hadoop World Conference in New York. He said that he has led a project to index that data, essentially creating an internal search engine for the analytics warehouse.
    October 30, 2013, 7:15 AM ET
    By STEVE ROSENBUSH
    Find this story at 30 October 2013
    Copyright ©2014 Dow Jones & Company, Inc

    Report: Facebook Is Collecting Data on Your Cursor Movements

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    Facebook may be adding to the list of things it knows about you.
    The social network is reportedly experimenting with new technology that tracks and collects data about a user’s activity on the site, including cursor movements, according to the Wall Street Journal. The technology is being tested now with a small group of users.
    SEE ALSO: How to Change Your Facebook Relationship Status Without Alerting Friends
    The data could be used in a number of different ways, from product development to advertising, Facebook analytics chief Ken Rudin told the Journal.
    The technology can supposedly determine where a user is hovering his or her cursor on the screen, meaning it could be used to determine the most appropriate places for advertisements. The technology also tracks whether Facebook’s mobile users can see their News Feed at any particular time from their smartphone.
    Facebook did not immediately respond to Mashable’s request for comment.
    Facebook will reportedly decide “within months” whether or not to continue this data collection and analysis. It could be relevant for targeted advertising where Facebook has already seen quarter-over-quarter growth in 2013.
    Facebook is set to reports the company’s quarterly earnings Wednesday afternoon.
    UPDATE, Oct. 30, 8:55 p.m. ET: Facebook responded to our request for comment with the following statement:
    “Like most websites, we run numerous tests at any given time to ensure that we’re creating the best experience possible for people on Facebook. These experiments look at aggregate trends of how people interact with the site to inform future product decisions. We do not share this information with anyone outside of Facebook and we are not using this information to target ads.”
    BY KURT WAGNEROCT 30, 2013
    Find this story at 30 October 2013
    copyright http://mashable.com/

    What Facebook Collects and Shares

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    What Facebook could know about you, and why you should care.
    Facebook is a resource for opinions and hobbies, celebrities and love interests, friends and family, and all the activities that whirl them together in our daily lives. Much like other social networking sites, Facebook is free except for one thing that all users give up: a certain amount of personal information.
    Facebook privacy policy provides extensive information about the use of personal data of registered users. It clearly specifies what personal information is collected, how it is used, parties to whom this information may be disclosed, and the security measures taken to protect the information.
    By reading and understanding the privacy policy, a user is able to weigh the risks involved in trusting this popular Web site, before one enters any personal information into its pages or installs its applications.
    Information Collected by Facebook
    Facebook collects two types of information: personal details provided by a user and usage data collected automatically as the user spends time on the Web site clicking around.
    Regarding personal information, the user willfully discloses it, such as name, email address, telephone number, address, gender and schools attended, for example. Facebook may request permission to use the user’s email address to send occasional notifications about the new services offered.
    Facebook records Web site usage data, in terms of how users access the site, such as type of web browser they use, the user’s IP address, how long they spend logged into the site, and other statistics. Facebook compiles this data to understand trends for improving the site or making marketing decisions.
    Facebook now has fine-grained privacy settings for its users. Users can decide which part of their information should be visible and to whom. Facebook categorizes members of the user’s network as “Friends” and “Friends of Friends,” or a broader group, such as a university or locality, and “Everyone,” which includes all users of the site. The categorization increases the granularity of the privacy settings in a user’s profile.
    Children: No one under 13 is permitted to register. Children between 13 and 18 require parental permission before sending personal information over Internet. A policy alone, however, does not stop children from using the site, and parents must be watchful of their children’s online activities in order to enforce these policies.
    Facebook stores users’ personal information on secure servers behind a firewall.
    Sharing of Information with Third Parties
    Facebook does not provide personal information to third parties without the user’s consent. Facebook also limits the information available to Internet search engines. Before accepting third-party services, Facebook makes the third party sign an agreement that holds it responsible for any misuse of personal information. However, advertising by third parties on Facebook can lead to their gaining access to user information, such as IP address or cookie-based web usage information that allows personalization of advertisements.
    Precautions for Users
    Facebook provides thousands of third-party applications for its users to download. Facebook further personalizes the advertisements of these applications on the user’s profiles. It does this by mining through other sources on the Internet to information about the likings and interests of these users. Sources for such mined data are newspapers, blogs and instant messaging to provide services customized according to the user’s personality. However, because these sources are not affiliated with Facebook, it raises a concern of data mining by these sources.
    Facebook does not actually provide a mechanism for users to close their accounts, and thus raises the concern that private user data will remain indefinitely on Facebook’s servers.
    Over time, the CEO and Board of Directors of a company change, or the company may even be sold. Under such circumstances, a concern arises about the private information held by the company. Deactivation without deletion of a user’s account implies that the data continue to be present on the servers. If a company is then sold, the data of those users who are currently deactivated may be subject to compromise.
    Conclusion
    Facebook has an explicitly stated privacy policy. It aims to enhance the social networking experience of users by reducing their concerns about the privacy of their data on the Web site. However, the more the Web site tries to incorporate open innovation by allowing third-party access and other such facilities, the more it puts personal information at risk, thereby increasing the probability of losing the trust of its users.
    Find this story at 2014
    Copyright © 2003–2012 Carnegie Mellon CyLab

    Where Does Facebook Stop and the NSA Begin?

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.
    “That social norm is just something that has evolved over time” is how Mark Zuckerberg justified hijacking your privacy in 2010, after Facebook imperiously reset everyone’s default settings to “public.” “People have really gotten comfortable sharing more information and different kinds.” Riiight. Little did we know that by that time, Facebook (along with Google, Microsoft, etc.) was already collaborating with the National Security Agency’s PRISM program that swept up personal data on vast numbers of internet users.
    In light of what we know now, Zuckerberg’s high-hat act has a bit of a creepy feel, like that guy who told you he was a documentary photographer, but turned out to be a Peeping Tom. But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised: At the core of Facebook’s business model is the notion that our personal information is not, well, ours. And much like the NSA, no matter how often it’s told to stop using data in ways we didn’t authorize, it just won’t quit. Not long after Zuckerberg’s “evolving norm” dodge, Facebook had to promise the feds it would stop doing things like putting your picture in ads targeted at your “friends”; that promise lasted only until this past summer, when it suddenly “clarified” its right to do with your (and your kids’) photos whatever it sees fit. And just this week, Facebook analytics chief Ken Rudin told the Wall Street Journal that the company is experimenting with new ways to suck up your data, such as “how long a user’s cursor hovers over a certain part of its website, or whether a user’s newsfeed is visible at a given moment on the screen of his or her mobile phone.”
    There will be a lot of talk in coming months about the government surveillance golem assembled in the shadows of the internet. Good. But what about the pervasive claim the private sector has staked to our digital lives, from where we (and our phones) spend the night to how often we text our spouse or swipe our Visa at the liquor store? It’s not a stretch to say that there’s a corporate spy operation equal to the NSA—indeed, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.
    In light of what we know now, Zuckerberg’s high-hat act has a bit of a creepy feel, like that guy who told you he was a documentary photographer, but turned out to be a Peeping Tom.
    Yes, Silicon Valley libertarians, we know there is a difference: When we hand over information to Facebook, Google, Amazon, and PayPal, we click “I Agree.” We don’t clear our cookies. We recycle the opt-out notice. And let’s face it, that’s exactly what internet companies are trying to get us to do: hand over data without thinking of the transaction as a commercial one. It’s all so casual, cheery, intimate—like, like?
    But beyond all the Friends and Hangouts and Favorites, there’s cold, hard cash, and, as they say on Sand Hill Road, when the product is free, you are the product. It’s your data that makes Facebook worth $100 billion and Google $300 billion. It’s your data that info-mining companies like Acxiom and Datalogix package, repackage, sift, and sell. And it’s your data that, as we’ve now learned, tech giants also pass along to the government. Let’s review: Companies have given the NSA access to the records of every phone call made in the United States. Companies have inserted NSA-designed “back doors” in security software, giving the government (and, potentially, hackers—or other governments) access to everything from bank records to medical data. And oh, yeah, companies also flat-out sell your data to the NSA and other agencies.
    To be sure, no one should expect a bunch of engineers and their lawyers to turn into privacy warriors. What we could have done without was the industry’s pearl-clutching when the eavesdropping was finally revealed: the insistence (with eerily similar wording) that “we have never heard of PRISM”; the Captain Renault-like shock—shock!—to discover that data mining was going on here. Only after it became undeniably clear that they had known and had cooperated did they duly hurl indignation at the NSA and the FISA court that approved the data demands. Heartfelt? Maybe. But it also served a branding purpose: Wait! Don’t unfriend us! Kittens!
    O hai, check out Mark Zuckerberg at this year’s TechCrunch conference: The NSA really “blew it,” he said, by insisting that its spying was mostly directed at foreigners. “Like, oh, wonderful, that’s really going to inspire confidence in American internet companies. I thought that was really bad.” Shorter: What matters is how quickly Facebook can achieve total world domination.
    Maybe the biggest upside to l’affaire Snowden is that Americans are starting to wise up. “Advertisers” rank barely behind “hackers or criminals” on the list of entities that internet users say they don’t want to be tracked by (followed by “people from your past”). A solid majority say it’s very important to control access to their email, downloads, and location data. Perhaps that’s why, outside the more sycophantic crevices of the tech press, the new iPhone’s biometric capability was not greeted with the unadulterated exultation of the pre-PRISM era.
    The truth is, for too long we’ve been content to play with our gadgets and let the geekpreneurs figure out the rest. But that’s not their job; change-the-world blather notwithstanding, their job is to make money. That leaves the hard stuff—like how much privacy we’ll trade for either convenience or security—in someone else’s hands: ours. It’s our responsibility to take charge of our online behavior (posting Carlos Dangerrific selfies? So long as you want your boss, and your high school nemesis, to see ’em), and, more urgently, it’s our job to prod our elected representatives to take on the intelligence agencies and their private-sector pals.
    The NSA was able to do what it did because, post-9/11, “with us or against us” absolutism cowed any critics of its expanding dragnet. Facebook does what it does because, unlike Europe—where both privacy and the ability to know what companies have on you are codified as fundamental rights—we haven’t been conditioned to see Orwellian overreach in every algorithm. That is now changing, and both the NSA and Mark Zuckerberg will have to accept it. The social norm is evolving.
    —By Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery | November/December 2013 Issue
    Find this story at November/December 2013
    Copyright ©2014 Mother Jones and the Foundation for National Progress.

    Met de billen bloot op Facebook

    Er wordt alom voor gewaarschuwd: je sociale leven kan redelijk eenvoudig in kaart worden gebracht zodra je actief een Facebook-pagina onderhoudt. Buro J&J brengt het resultaat visueel in kaart.

    Metadata zijn sporen die je na laat gedurende je communicatie via internet en telefoon. Dit zijn vooral individuele sporen, sporen over jezelf en het directe contact dat je onderhoudt met mensen. Natuurlijk kan naar aanleiding van die sporen een beeld geschetst worden van je sociale leefwereld, maar daarvoor moet je iemands data wel eerst voor langere tijd opslaan.

    Individuele data is harde data over waar, hoe laat en met wie je hebt gesproken waarmee je als verdachte, getuige of onbekende kunt worden gelabeld door opsporingsdiensten. Je bent in de buurt geweest, je hebt met iemand gebeld of gewhatsappt, je reageert niet op een sms-bombardement, alles in het kader van de opsporing.

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    In het voorafgaande artikel ‘Met de billen bloot op Facebook’, over Facebook profiling, gaat het vooral over netwerken waarin mensen zich bevinden. Profiling bestaat echter niet alleen uit netwerkanalyse, maar ook uit identificatie-analyse. Wie de profielen van Margriet, Barbara en Laurens bekijkt, krijgt niet alleen de beschikking over veel informatie met betrekking tot familie, vrienden, kennissen, heden en verleden, maar ook voorkeuren.

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    Met de billen bloot op Facebook

    Er wordt alom voor gewaarschuwd: je sociale leven kan redelijk eenvoudig in kaart worden gebracht zodra je actief een Facebook-pagina onderhoudt. Buro J&J brengt het resultaat visueel in kaart.

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    Facebook, het ultieme inlichtingenbedrijf

    Je kan Facebook vergelijken met de people’s secret service. Want hoe je het wendt of keert, uiteindelijk zijn het de internetgebruikers die vrijwillig hun persoonlijke leven prijsgeven aan het commerciële bedrijfsleven en de overheid.

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