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Facebook under fire over targeted advertising

London Telegraph | September 11, 2007
Bonnie Malkin

Social networking site Facebook has announced it will increase its use of personal information to target advertising to individual members, despite privacy concerns among its 39 million users.

The California-based site will add new advertising features in coming weeks in an attempt to boost revenue.

Until now, Facebook has not allowed external websites to trawl its member database, which includes about 5 million UK users.

Owen Van Natta, the company's chief revenue officer, said making advertisements more personal was a priority for Facebook.

But Chris Kelly, chief privacy officer, defended the move, saying the site had always made it clear to users that their personal information may be used to target advertisements and promotions.

The announcement comes amid growing disquiet over targeted advertising online.

There are concerns that in the race to learn more about their users, and translate that data into advertising revenue, websites may risk infringing privacy rights.

Keith Reed, of internet security group Trend Micro, said criminals may be able to find information online that could help them carry out identity theft.

However, Mr Kelly told the Times the company was "very comfortable" with its position on privacy protection.

He said internet users no longer expected to remain anonymous online.

With rapidly expanding membership, which grew by more than sixty per cent in the past three months, Facebook has database which is regarded as a lucrative marketing, business research and advertising tool.

Facebook plans to use its information on users' social and professional relationships to create a highly-profitable database or "Social Graph".

The demographic information will then be used to transform the site into a "massive distribution network" for services and advertising.


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