Facebook just cranked up the creepiness factor for a small percentage of users.
According to Ad Age, the social network is testing real-time data mining of status updates and wall posts. So if you announce to the world that you just had a baby, Facebook might immediately respond with an ad for diapers. For now, instant data mining is limited to 1 percent of Facebook users, which translates to roughly 6 million users.
Data mining isn’t new for Facebook. The site already uses wall posts and status updates to create relevant ads, and in January, Facebook rolled out “Sponsored Stories,” which transplants the things people say about brands to the advertising bar on the side of the screen. The difference here is timing. Instead of saving the data from wall posts and status updates for later, Facebook is analyzing what users write to generate instant ads.
If you use Gmail, this shouldn’t be too disconcerting. For years, Google has used the text of e-mails to spit out relevant advertisements. But if the whole idea gives you the creeps, at least take comfort knowing that this type of data mining is all handled by algorithms, so you needn’t worry about some marketer poring over your every word. If you want to worry about privacy, there are plenty of other good reasons.
Facebook won’t say how the real-time ads are going, but a spokesman told Ad Age that the tests will continue indefinitely.