How Facebook Benefits From Your Breakup

By February 11, 2012

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, but ironically many couples lose the spark of love that kindled their relationship just before the most romantic day of the year. Let’s pretend that you’ve been dating someone for over a year, and you find yourself caught in a unique situation that Facebook plans on taking full advantage of.

Expect a lot of comments and likes.

You just had a nasty breakup.

In the time you were with this significant other, you have shared your love for this person affectionately with your friends on Facebook. You’ve taken photos together, checked-in together, and shared an entire year’s worth of other digital memories throughout your Facebook Timeline. In the real world you would pack up all of their belongings in a box, burn old photos, and put that box in their driveway; but how exactly do you go about cleaning up your digital identity?

Cleaning up your digital identity is a tedious and time consuming process that prevents many users from taking the time to clean up their public image. There is a very important reason that Facebook makes this cleanup process so time consuming and difficult.

Pay close attention to the ads that appear on the side of your News Feed. If you take the time to observe these ads you’ll notice that they are eerily targeted at you based on well, everything. Keep in mind that anything you post on Facebook is fair game for the Company to use in their efforts to market advertisements at you. Every click, “like”, and even the music you listen to is tracked and used to target specific ads at you.

Check out this line taken directly from Facebook’s privacy policy: “We receive data from the computer, mobile phone or other device you use to access Facebook. This may include your IP address, location, the type of browser you use, or the pages you visit.” What Facebook doesn’t tell you directly is that they are watching your every move on the web. Any app, website, or web browser you use to login to Facebook is fair game. They even go so far as to track the websites you are viewing in your browser while you are still logged into Facebook.

In an article for the New York Times, Lori Andrews provides some direct evidence supporting the public demand for a do-not-track law.

A 2008 Consumer Reports poll of 2,000 people found that 93 percent thought Internet companies should always ask for permission before using personal information, and 72 percent wanted the right to opt out of online tracking. A study by Princeton Survey Research Associates in 2009 using a random sample of 1,000 people found that 69 percent thought that the United States should adopt a law giving people the right to learn everything a Web site knows about them. We need a do-not-track law, similar to the do-not-call one. Now it’s not just about whether my dinner will be interrupted by a telemarketer. It’s about whether my dreams will be dashed by the collection of bits and bytes over which I have no control and for which companies are currently unaccountable.

If you’ve recently broken up with your significant other expect Facebook ads for Häagen-Dazs ice cream, tissues, and dating websites. Facebook is all about product, and making the user’s experience as simple as possible; but why is it so difficult for users to clean up their online image or opt-out of  Facebook’s ludicrous tracking methods ?