http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/3578fb70-4b14 ... ab49a.htmlFacebook to target ads based on users’ trail
By David Gelles in San Francisco
Published: April 18 2010 21:47 | Last updated: April 18 2010 21:47
Facebook has laid the ground for a new system that would track its users’ behaviour as they visit other sites around the internet, using the information to deliver highly targeted advertisements to them on the social networking site.
So-called “behavioural targeting” is widely used by companies such as Google but, on Facebook.com, the move is likely to provoke a new round of criticism over incursions into users’ privacy.
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In order to make the system work, Facebook is planning to unveil this week a content-sharing button that other websites can embed on their pages, according to marketers briefed on the plans. Similar to buttons from Twitter and Digg that let users share content with their social networks, the Facebook button will allow users to signal the content they like on sites around the internet.
However, data from these interactions would be used to target them with related adverts once they return to Facebook.com
The move would mark a departure for Facebook which, until now, has targeted ads based only on the personal information in a user’s profile – such as location, age, gender and relationship status. An announcement on the system is expected on Wednesday, at Facebook’s annual F8 conference in San Francisco.
Facebook is also expected to announce changes to its “engagement ads” – the brand advertising through which it makes most of its money. Engagement ads encourage users to “become a fan” of brands such as Starbucks and Coca-Cola. This means agreeing to receive messages or special offers from that brand – making it easier for advertisers to insert promotional information into users’ newsfeeds, and potentially gain access to their personal data.
Under changes to be announced this week, Facebook will replace the “Become a fan” button with an invitation to say “I like” a brand.
Facebook declined to comment on the changes.
Analysts and advertising executives are concerned that these changes risk a repeat of the privacy outcry when Facebook tried to introduce its “Beacon” advertising system in 2007. Beacon revealed information about users’ recent purchases to their networks of friends but the ensuing criticism forced the company to allow users to “opt-in” to the service.
Ian Maude of Enders Analysis said that allowing brands to put marketing in a member’s newsfeed without consciously opting in “is a mistake”. “It could be Beacon part two,” he said.