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What sort of sales and whoring-out has Facebook done? Is there really any value in one's social graph, or do we just hope there is so we can hate Facebook for being evil instead of for making us realize how dumb our friends are?



As someone whose bought a ton of advertising on Google, and some on Facebook, there is a hell of a lot of value in the social graph.

With Google you bid contextually, that is, you are guessing that because the page is about (for example) "The Beatles" that the people there are interested in The Beatles. This is generally right. But, you have no idea about the demographics of the viewers. Just knowing if someone is under 18 or over 21 pretty much means whether or not they have any ability to purchase your product after clicking your ad. And these demographic/behavioral trends go much deeper.

On Facebook you buy an ad based on the users demographics (age, gender, etc.) and what they explicitly said they were interested in. Most people don't list every single interest. Facebook, by pulling in all this external data now has a shitload more stuff advertisers can target ads on. Instead of targeting the tiny fraction of people who put "The Beatles" as their interests, now advertisers will be able to target users that are likely interested in The Beatles because they do things like, listen to The Beatles every week, or all their friends listened to The Beatles this month.

Its very likely that Facebook will be able to beat Google's CPMs with this deep targeting ability. Whether or not its planned, I expect that Facebook will attempt to syndicate their advertising and compete directly with Google

Users should be very concerned. Advertisers can figure out a lot about you based on you clicking an ad that they targeted to a narrow set of specifications. You might think the ad is about free ipods but its really only being displayed to users that did a certain set of criteria. This can and will be abused. To a limited extent it already is.

Back when Facebook first rolled out their ad network, there was an advertiser or two who figured out you could target females that were engaged, and by insulting their weight get them to buy their weight loss pills.

As you can imagine, Google needs a large Google + user base so they can build their own dat aset to sell ads based off of.

Ironically the next Facebook killer social network will likely have the main selling point of privacy. I'd sign up. Google + is not it.

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You don't want Facebook to post an announcement say "I am watching a video on makeMEpleasure.xxx, and I like it because I visit this website ten times per day." or have Facebook recommend you with potential same-flavor friends or pages, which include something making more guys happy.

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The more data we have about a user's behavior the more useful it is potentially for predicting future behavior; whether it's how likely they are to buy brand x from store y or who they will vote for in the next election, and how they influence their friends and family (or vice versa).

Right now machine learning is still a niche area for the majority of programmers. Looking at open source software landscape for ml, this is slowly changing. It's only a matter of time before people make breakthrough applications (that is if they haven't already).

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I don't get why it's a big deal if Facebook knows who you're going to vote for or what brands you might buy.

I suppose that because people buy or vote for what they're told to buy or vote for, this will let those wanting to influence people more effectively spend their money. But the solution to that is not AdBlock, it's education. Smarter people mean less susceptibility to manipulation, which is what we are really trying to achieve, right?

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> I don't get why it's a big deal if Facebook knows who you're going to vote for or what brands you might buy.

It depends on who buys the data and / or the interpretation of that data from them. Just imagine a country like China buying it to predict who will become a subversive and arresting them before anything happens, something akin to pre-cog crime. When I think about it, we can probably aleady do this somewhat accurately with all the data we can collect right now. We have all the tools: open (and affordable proprietary) ML software, open big data frameworks (hadoop, storm, actor model, cassandra), as well as the cloud (AWS, Rackspace). People just need a comprehensive set of data.

> Smarter people mean less susceptibility to manipulation, which is what we are really trying to achieve, right?

Not necessarily, you can't constantly consciously fight thousands of years of evolution; but that's another topic.

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So the reason why Americans shouldn't use Facebook is because it's possible that some rogue government somewhere might oppress its people? Those governments seem to be doing a pretty good job already without Facebook's help.

Then there's the argument that in 30 years the US will be one of these countries, too. I wonder why people are so afraid of this, but not of the small chance that they'll be hit by a meteor when they go outside tomorrow to go to work. They've been hit by a meteor exactly as many times as their government has used a "social graph" to oppress them, after all.

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For most of human history most people in the world lived under tyranny. In that light the freedoms we enjoy in the USA are a pretty small blip in the data. Why do we think it will always be so, especially with so many people apparently unconcerned about the unprecedented ability of both commercial and government organizations to accurately profile the public/citizens?

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To be fair, the San Francisco BART protests come to mind when you talk about recent examples of government oppression. On the other hand, I don't know of anyone who has been hit by a meteor.

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That's just one obvious example. As for your analogy, that's like saying people were already doing a great job communicating via phone and email, what's the point of IM, twitter, or social networks in general?

You're vastly underestimating the potential value of access and storage of more and more precise behavioral data combined with the innovation of a startup vs the stodgy, uncreative, stubborn ways of both old world telecom and finance corporations. Back then, even with access to people's purchasing data and past addresses, I would have had to do a lot more work and ask for larger increases to our budget to figure out people's relationships as well as non-purchasing behavioral data aside from traffic. Now I can potentially have access to people's preferences to stuff as opposed to just guessing. Today it's much easier and cheaper.

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This protection is NOT about the value of the social graph. And neither is Facebook, BTW - that turned out to be a gambit to get where they are.

And where they are is that they know everything about you (biographical info, hobbies, affiliations, marital status, number of kids, sexual preferences, web sites you visit and when), independently of who you know.

Right now, fb are only (?) using it to target ads at you, but you can be sure that all three letter agencies are cc:ed on every database update

It's about not letting Facebook track your every move on the web and beyond (or, more accurately, not let every site snitch on you to facebook).

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Is there really any value in one's social graph

If there is value in the graph, then the protection works. If there isn't value, then this is a fail-safe.

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