Facebook to start selling you

Facebook announced today that they are re-launching Atlas, a ‘people-based marketing’ tool “to tackle today’s marketing challenges, like reaching people across devices and bridging the gap between online impressions and offline purchases.”

According to a post by Erik Johnson:

Atlas delivers people-based marketing, helping marketers reach real people across devices, platforms and publishers. By doing this, marketers can easily solve the cross-device problem through targeting, serving and measuring across devices. And, Atlas can now connect online campaigns to actual offline sales, ultimately proving the real impact that digital campaigns have in driving incremental reach and new sales.

Targeting and measurement capabilities are built-in, and cross-device marketing is easy with new ways of evaluating media performance centered on people for reporting and measurement. This valuable data can lead to better optimization decisions to make your media budget even more effective.

That’s a little scary.

Essentially, if you have a Facebook account then Facebook is going to sell your demographics to advertisers who will be able to reach you wherever you are, on your desktop, on your tablet or on your mobile phone even if you aren’t using Facebook at the time. And yes, they will be tracking your purchases whenever possible and adding that data into the mix.

Obviously the idea is to give advertisers better insights into who we are, what our surfing patterns are like and what sorts of things we buy. Advertisers will then be able to stuff ads into sites that we visit that will theoretically pique our interests and ultimately get us to buy whatever it is they are selling.

Facebook’s stand on hoovering up as much data as possible from its users and selling that data to whoever wants to pay for it is almost diametrically opposed to Apple’s stance that they don’t collect (don’t even want) user’s data. But Facebook has never claimed that they wouldn’t sell user data. They have said that they wouldn’t sell a user’s particular data but rather sell aggregated general, non-specific data, although where that particular line is drawn is a bit vague.

Highly-targeted advertising is becoming more of a reality as we get deeper into the realms of big-data and sophisticated analytics and to a degree you could say that it is a good thing. While we have learned to ignore most online advertising, new techniques will present us with ads that strike closer to home and make it harder to simply click ‘skip this ad.’ You could also argue that these new techniques will present us with information about companies, products or services that we might not even realize exist and we would be happy to find out about.

Then again, it’s kind of creepy when you see an ad for something you might be interested in even though you are on a site that has nothing to do with that subject. When you see ads like that you know that someone, perhaps Amazon, is trying to cash in on the fact that you bought a particular product so they are pushing similar products to you wherever you go.

Perhaps the most creepy example I’ve run across (and perhaps this happened to you too) was a few months back on my birthday when I went to the Google home page and it said “Happy birthday, Guy.” I had to look twice because I didn’t believe it.

Um…thanks Google, but don’t ever do that again please.