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How Facebook Stalks Users To Become A Global Advertising Giant




WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 11: Facebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a combined Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. Zuckerberg, 33, was called to testify after it was reported that 87 million Facebook users had their personal information harvested by Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm linked to the Trump campaign.

Will Leamon once said, “Sooner or later there will always be a cost
for “Free Stuff.” Everyone was so excited that Facebook, unlike some
other platforms is free and easy to use. A new solution to finding old
friends, and even making new ones as against the old Yahoo chat that we all knew. Mark Zuckerberg saw the opportunity, and boom, everyone loves Facebook. Little did its users know that they were being stalked.


Many made Facebook their personal album closet. For many, if you want to know the story of their life, just check out their Facebook page. For some, it’s an opportunity to have a free online business showroom. Everyone, from individuals to blue chip companies wants a Facebook account. When Facebook introduced its ad platform in 2007, advertisers could  target people using information the people had volunteered on the platform. This is what a typical target audience might have looked like with those options:

Anyone who lives in Lagos, studies Accounting in a University, and is between 20 and 25.

In 2009, Facebook added more features. These included intriguing
features that brought the ability for users to click a “like” button
on posts in their Newsfeed. This indirectly refined the list of
interests that advertisers could target. The tech giant also
introduced ways for advertisers to target friends of those who had
interacted with their brands, and to target ads at people by age or

MILAN, ITALY – MARCH 25: A gigantic sculpture representing a like button, a typical feature of social networking services, stands in front of Porta Garibaldi on March 25, 2018 in Milan, Italy.

To understand the fortune this has brought to Facebook, in the United States for example, every one in five dollars spent on online
advertising goes to Facebook. The strength of the company’s ad
platform comes from the ability it offers nonprofits, brands,
politicians, real estate agents, and others to precisely target people
on its social networks. How could this not be?

In the middle of 2014, Facebook incorporated users’ online browsing history into its ad-targeting platform. This showed that Facebook had been collecting browsing data for years. This included any web page that included a Facebook ‘like’ button or had let people log in through their Facebook accounts. The company used the browsing data —from, say, a user’s visits to several websites while he or she shopped for a new cloth, pair of shoes, games and so on to refine the specific interests that advertisers want. This ensured more precision in targeting audience for advert purpose.

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So for example, anyone who lives in Lagos, studies Accounting in a
University, and is 21, and who has bought a pair of jean through an
online store; probably opened his account through his Facebook in
order to avoid the hassle of filling forms, and eventually forgetting
the account details,  the purchase history of that person is recorded
to help advertisers target them more. That is how Facebook stalks its users to provide options for advertisers.

This has huge advantages for Facebook, but it also means that nothing is actually private for users. Zuckerberg recently admitted that Facebook actually scans all the messages in your inbox. That means that nothing is actually an ‘inbox.’ It might someday be revealed that all Whatsapp messages, despite the promise of encryption are being scanned as well.

Facebook also added a targeting option called Ethnic Affinity. The
company does not ask users to identify their race, but it assigns
ethnicities based on activities such as the content and pages that
users like. A user could be categorized as African-American, for
example, because his Facebook activity “aligns with African-American multicultural affinity.” The other ethnicities that can be assigned are Hispanic and Asian-American.

The whistle blown on Cambridge Analytica that it collected information of up to 87 million Facebook users, which reportedly included Nigerian users have renewed concerns about privacy on the platform. It has prompted the company to pledge to improve its privacy tools and transparency and to re-think at least one aspect of its ad practices. The company has already said it would drop targeting options based on third-party data from its advertising platform.

The changes also come at a time when a new law in the European Union; the General Data Protection Regulation was introduced. The law, which is to take effect next month, requires technology companies to limit their collection of user data to what they need to perform services, and to obtain customers’ consent for how their data will be used and with whom it will be shared.

During his testimony before the US Congress, Zuckerberg said the
company would now be offering all of its users the same privacy
required under the European law, regardless of where they live.
Whatever the case is, Facebook has, and it is not likely that it will
stop stalking its users in order to get data to satisfy advertisers
who indirectly pay for every user to continue to stay


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