How Facebook Screwed Up, and How The User Can Control Advertising

Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook

Scott Karp had an excellent article about how Facebook’s Beacon messed up and created such a reaction from Facebook users.

My explanation for Facebook’s policy re Beacon is that all the press, plus a 15B valuation on a company which does not have significant cash flow will get management to adopt all kinds of dumb user-privacy violating tactics to justify the valuation in the hope that the company can garner significant ad revenue.

In short, Facebook’s Beacon policy of spying on users’ activity across the Internet was a panic move…

Some hokey marketers get so wrapped up in the data that they can garner that they forget a lof the information is, frankly, useless.

“Look! We can target albino 16-year old Chinese boys who play more than 20 hours on the PS3 in Nome, Alaska during the winter and who had the Nintendo Wii recommended to them on Overstock by a friend in Wichita, Kansas!”

Now, many have put forward basically a Bill of Rights for users, and user control of their own data. Dave Winer has said that the user should be able to control how his/her data is used, right down to being able to to keep a copy for him/herself.

Giving the user control over his data? What a revolutionary idea! (There I go again…)

I think that there is a simple and elegant solution which will take some hard work and years to perfect.

Here it is: Why do consumers have to give their data for free to advertisers and be only consumers? Why can’t consumers be advertisers too? And why can’t they be credited or paid for advertising products/services they like? In return for being paid/tracked, they would give up their anonymity. Should they want to become anonymous again, they can do so, and they would not be tracked. But they would not be paid. If they wanted to become tracked/paid again, they could do so. Anytime. Anywhere.

In this scenario, the user would control what ads he wanted to receive in his user profile in real-time; this could be done with a system of checks or tags or something else. To opt out of “auto ads”, just to use an example, all he would have to do is uncheck it.

Basically, the user is selling his attention information to the advertisers. I look at it another way; the user is selling his time to advertisers to get data; relevant advertising data will be deemed useful and passed on, while irrelevant data will not be used and will not be passed on, and will be treated by the user as spam. In return for passing meaningful data to another prospect or customer, the first consumer should be reimbursed with money for exposing his data, and making a meaningful referral which eventually results in a sale.

And so on and so forth. Here is the trade: Give us your name, identity and user info, and let us follow your activities, and we will pay you. You can opt out anytime, and you will not be paid.


I have always wondered why consumers are always treated by advertisers as consumers, when in real life, people have multiple roles such as father, husband, son and manager, or mother, wife, daughter and VP, just to use a few examples. So why should people only be consumers? Ask people for their data, then pay them for it.

That’s what I call a fair trade.

Now, if Facebook did that, that would be really something. And if Facebook doesn’t, then I hope that someone else does.

If they do, they’ll have my business.

Whatever Facebook does, let’s cut the spyware bullshit. That’s a real business killer. Those guys just dug themselves a big one with Beacon, and I’m wondering how they’ll get out.

4 Responses to “How Facebook Screwed Up, and How The User Can Control Advertising”

  1. Alex Dong says:

    Interesting. So what you’re describing here is to provide a platform for advertisers to buy data with user’s ‘opt-in’ as a privacy guarantee. I think this is an elegant idea, simple yet powerful. Turn the old manner buy-sell relationship upside-down.

    Now, let’s wait and see how big this ‘new’ market is and how facebook or any other sns could play the game.

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  3. janet says:

    i think the new facebook stinks and they should go back to the old way .I CANT EVEN SEE MY OWN KIDS POSTING NOR WHAT THEY SENT ,i thinks it should get the boot[Facebook that is]

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