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Social Networking and Behavioral Targeting -- Its Out There!

Another great article from the Chronicle of Higher Education....

The Advertiser Over Your Shoulder by Brock Read

When they warn students about the perils of social networking, college officials often point out that prospective employers pore over profiles on MySpace and Facebook. And the sites themselves aren’t shy about doing the same.

As The New York Times reports, both MySpace and Facebook are embracing “behavioral targeting? as an advertising tool. MySpace has enlisted more than 50 companies, including Ford and Taco Bell, in a program that peruses profiles, makes note of users’ interests, and then delivers thematically appropriate ads. Facebook is expected soon to unveil a similar advertising scheme, also based on profile data,.

The social networks are going public with their microtargeting strategies just a week after the Federal Trade Commission held a hearing to consider whether it should regulate online advertising more aggressively. Privacy advocates like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology had asked the commission to create a “Do Not Track? registry that would prohibit companies from logging people’s Web usage for advertising purposes. (Facebook officials showed up at the hearing to discuss their privacy policies.)

Would many college students sign up for such a list? Google’s e-mail service, Gmail, runs advertisements based on the content of users’ e-mail messages, but that practice hasn’t stunted the service’s growth.

Still, the advent of target advertising should unnerve students who are devoted to social networking, says Kathryn Montgomery, a professor of communication at American University. “If you are hanging out with your friends and talking about who you are, what rock stars you like, and so on,? she told The Times, “you don’t assume that someone is sitting there and taking down every word you’re saying and putting it into some kind of algorithm.? —Brock Read

Posted by kkowatch at November 5, 2007 04:48 PM

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