What can they find out about you on Facebook and who is looking


I was having a discussion with my new Sales & Marketing Assistant today about permission and proximity based marketing and the impact that social networking is going to have on this market. The topic of Facebook came up and how it is different to other consumer facing networks. The key difference is that unlike ‘most’ social networking sites people use their real identities, names and other information rather than nom de plumes. This means that a huge amount of information could be available, much more than they might want known.

Who might want to use this information? Potential employers, lending institutions, the police, security services, marketing companies, loyalty companies, asociations, manufacturers, brands………………… Why? Lots of reasons, some good, some bad.

I may have mentioned in a previous blog that a major university in the UK is doing some research to find out what they can learn about their current students from Facebooks, and I’m assuming the exercise is to find out what they can learn without people’s informed consent.

It’s no secret that brands like Coca Cola are very interested in the ability to market to users of Facebook and I’m sure they will come up with some very cool games or other applications to get people to participate and then the fun begins.

Now the areas I am particularly interested in are proximity based marketing, in the long term using GPS based mobiles. Currently less than 4% of all phones have built in GPS and therefore tracking people’s whereabouts now is not a marketing proposition, but it will come. Subject to controls, and that is already looking difficult to impose, I would have no problem with a music shop sending me a text message saying “Luigi, we know you are close by, come and show us this message and we will let you have a play on our new Roland Guitar Synthesisor just in from the lab and if you by a set of strings while you are here, you can have a second set to the same value free.”

We know that in future fashion stores will have a database of their clients measurements, colours, likes and dislikes. I see in the future a scenario where a woman will get a PXT or Video message, saying “seeing as you are in the area, we’ve sent you this photo to show you what you will look like in the new autumn-wear that has just come in from Milan. Drop in in the next 30 minutes and we will give you a 25% discount on your purchase.”

But I digress as I often do. In marketing and collection of information, the theory is that you have consented to companies or organisations collecting and holding information about you and often you have unknowingly consented to their sharing your information with others. I am concerned that the definition of consent is blurring. If you put personal information onto your Facebook profile and for one reason or another people you have no direct relationship can access it, did you consent to their having it and did you understand what that meant.

For example, if you send a message or email to someone you don’t know via certain applications in Facebook, you will get a message saying that the recipient will be able to see your profile and information for 1 month, even if you don’t accept them as friends. Is that scary or what? People tell me that they don’t allow their information to be seen by strangers, but that’s what they think!

The thing about this phenomenon is that Facebook is not an application, it is a development environment that anyone can use to make applications that link in to the Facebook network through a range of API’s and Widgets with commonality in functions. In an environment like Bebo or even MySpace, you are really dealing with one company who have control of the environment, even if they allow people to add little Flash applications or plugins. Facebook is quite different. If I had the smarts, or the inclination, I could build a Facebook  application. Let’s say for example I decided to build an application for Flashmobbing. It may be a little old concept now, but I’m sure if I focussed on a High School or University as a start up location I could get hundreds of people to join up and I would then have access to their profiles.

There are lots of more criminal or sinister things I could do, but I don’t want to even mention them and give other people ideas, but I’m sure you get the gist.

I’m going to stop now, I have things to do, but this is what I’m thinking about. On the one side I would like to see a world of permission and location based marketing that knows what I am interested in and where I am, but on the other hand I want to be able to ensure that I am not pestered with spam and that my personal details remain personal.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course http://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

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4 thoughts on “What can they find out about you on Facebook and who is looking

  1. Hi,
    I like the way you write ..Its really different and interesting … keep the momentum going ..I hope tis will really going to help me in future..The topic you have chosen Is really amazing and I am reading your posts since long …but this is really something exceptional . I like the way
    you are writing … Its really awesome ..I hope to see some new more and encouraging posts from you .
    Thanks .
    brilliant. .

  2. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Chris Tackett

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