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Friday, 23 March 2018

Facebook or how to Transform the Personal Data of others in Gold

Consume organic food, have studied in Mexico, appreciate shoes. All those apparently insignificant personal data allow the giant Facebook, now questioned after a case of data diversion, to win billions of dollars.
Who signs up in the social network designed by Mark Zuckerberg is received with a promise: "Facebook is free and always will be". But, if users do not pay anything, how can Facebook generate its colossal profits, which reached almost 16,000 million dollars in 2017 after a rise of 56% in a year? The answer is very simple: with advertising. As an example, in the fourth quarter of 2017, advertising revenues represented 98.5% of the company's total turnover.

Facebook applies to the letter a slogan known to all marketing experts: "If it's free, you're the product." And the product, in this case, is the data that each user gives to the social network, every time he reacts to various publications - with "Like" or emoticons - that publishes something or makes searches.

The data, a treasure for advertisers

"The data are today's oil, they have a lot of value, but if they are not refined, they can not be used." This quote, attributed to the British mathematician Clive Humby in 2006, perfectly explains the economic model of Facebook.

By "refining" a raw material - thousands of millions of publications, photos, interactions - the Californian company allows advertisers to send "personalized" advertisements. The group explains the steps to follow in a website dedicated to companies.

"Whether you want your ad to show to people based on their age, place, hobby or other feature, we can help you connect with those who are more likely to be interested in what your company offers," says Facebook.

"For example, if you have a shoe store you can go to people who recently bought shoes."

A 'perfectly legal' data collection

Although Facebook is now in the eye of the hurricane after it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica, a company linked to the Donald Trump campaign, used personal data extracted from the social network, its economic model is legal. The company does not sell the data, but the access to the users that publish them, often without having read the conditions of use in detail.

"One is not aware of sharing all that and in reality social networks know us better than our own parents," says Nathalie Devillier, a researcher specializing in data protection.

In fact, one can restrict access to advertisers, provided they examine the parameters of their Facebook account. For example, you can answer "No" to the question "Can you see interest-based Facebook ads on the Internet?"

"Facebook is not going to look for anything more than what it published on the internet, the user is responsible," explains Gaspard Koenig, president of the liberal think tank GénérationLibre.

This advocates that the commercial logic be extended by giving users the possibility to sell their data themselves. The European Union chose another way, that of a greater protection of personal information, with the entry into force at the end of May of a European standard on this issue.

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