Facebook Ads: 'Not Really Creepy as Much as Inevitable'

Ann All

Because of its nearly universal reach and formidable user base, the Internet can make old-fashioned concepts and activities seem shiny and new. Examples: dating, gossip, political campaigning and professional networking.


And now we have Facebook Ads, the site's bid to win advertiser love with an API called Beacon that gives companies a prominent Facebook presence and offers users the ability to buy and sell stuff, view ads -- and most important, include their friends in these activities. Kind of reminds us of a Mary Kay or a Pampered Chef party.


Yet eWEEK makes it all sound considerably more radical in a recent article when it describes an application from Blockbuster called MovieClique that allows folks to swap lists of flicks they want to see and ones they've already seen with their friends:

Think about that value proposition: Facebook lets users review and rate movies and share this information with friends, who may rent videos from the same place. Advertising and reputation are driving e-commerce.

Facebook's move positions it for a battle royale with search giant Google, reports a Fortune piece published on CNNMoney.com. Yawn. Well, at least it gives us a breather from all of the Microsoft vs. Google stories -- though of course Microsoft has an ownership stake in Facebook.


As one might expect, it has also raised privacy concerns and may evenput it in violation of some current privacy laws, says a law school professor cited in an item on Portal IT. In an interesting twist of timing, Facebook's introduction of the program roughly coincided with the Federal Trade Commission's renewed interest in digital privacy and consumer group pleas for a digital version of the federal do-not-call list.


But Facebook has nothing to fear, says blogger Nicholas Carr. Noting that the site earlier weathered a privacy flap when it rolled out its News Feed service, he writes:

I think what (Facebook founder Mark) Zuckerberg learned was this: If you're going to push the privacy limit, then push it as far as you can. If users get upset, take a tiny step backwards and point to that tiny step as evidence that you've "listened to the community." If you go through this three-steps-forward-one-step-back routine enough times, you'll be able to get everything you want while your users will be able to maintain the illusion that they're in control.

Are users disappointed that the Internet's great promise of social change has largely been reduced to more opportunities for companies to shill their goods and services? Reaction is all over the board, as seen on this MediaPost blog.

Some excerpts of reader comments:

  • "Not really creepy as much as inevitable."
  • "I actually feel kind of special. To be honest, I never click ads, and I clicked this one, and I'm pretty satisfied. On a more generalized scope though, of course it's a little disturbing, but we caused it. "
  • "In a way it's good, because I'm seeing advertisements about things I already like and don't have to ignore another flashing auto insurance banner."
  • "'Capitalism is capitalism' has never been an effective argument for letting people exploit others or do things that are clearly harmful to society."

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