There is a photograph being shared in Facebook of a woman cowering in a corner, eyes downcast, as large man standing in the foreground swings his fist at her head. The caption reads, “Women deserve equal rights. And lefts.”
This is a particularly good, if depressing, discussion of Facebook’s treatment of violence towards women, masquerading under the guise of a Millian-attitude towards protecting speech.
But perhaps the most important recent development at Facebook is one that has no immediate bearing on the company’s finances. In October, Brad Smallwood, Facebook’s head of monetization analytics—a convoluted, five-dollar title that obscures his importance at the company—took to the stage at a marketers’ conference to announce that Facebook had formed a partnership with Datalogix, a market-analytics firm with purchasing information on about 70 million American homes. Under the agreement between the companies, Facebook would be able to measure whether a user’s exposure to an ad on the site was correlated with that person’s making a purchase at a store.
That type of information is essential for Facebook. Put simply, many corporations are still mired in click-through data, a standard of analysis that fails to fully reflect purchasing activity generated by online advertising. “The click is a terrible predictor of off-line sales,” Smallwood says. “Every research company knows that’s true.”
Still, Smallwood acknowledges, Wall Street continues to view clicks as the critical measure of online-ad performance. “At some level, people have gotten used to the click, and they still want to see the click when they deal with online,” he says. “It’s kind of our job to explain that that is not necessarily the best measure.”
The numbers from the early studies are powerful. Some 70 percent of the campaigns that were measured showed sales equal to three times or more the amount spent for the ads; 49 percent brought in at least five times what the ad had cost.
Kurt Eichenwald, “Facebook Leans In”
The new Home app/UX/quasi-OS is deeply integrated into the Android environment. It takes an effort to shut it down, because Home’s whole premise is to be always on and be the dashboard to your social world. It wants to be the start button for apps that are on your Android device, which in turn will give Facebook a deep insight on what is popular. And of course, it can build an app that mimics the functionality of that popular, fast-growing mobile app. I have seen it done before, both on other platforms and on Facebook.
But there is a bigger worry. The phone’s GPS can send constant information back to the Facebook servers, telling it your whereabouts at any time.
And most importantly it is Facebook, a company that is known to have played loose-and-easy with consumer privacy and data since its very inception, asking for forgiveness whenever we caught them with its hand in the cookie jar. I don’t think we can be that forgiving or reactive with Facebook on mobile.