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Facebook: The Madmen Are Cashing In On Your Desires

Julee Morrison has been obsessed with Bon Jovi since she was a teenager. So when paid ads for fan sites started popping up on the 41-year-old Salt Lake City blogger’s Facebook page, she was thrilled. She described herself as a “clicking fool,” perusing videos and photos of the New Jersey rockers. Then it dawned on Morrison why all those Bon Jovi ads appeared every time she logged onto the social networking site. “Facebook is reading my profile, my interests, the people and pages I am ‘friends’ with and targeting me,” Morrison said. “It’s brilliant social media, but it’s absolutely creepy.” For Facebook users, the free ride is over. For years, the privately held company founded by Mark Zuckerberg in a Harvard dorm room put little effort into ad sales, focusing instead on making its service irresistible to users. It worked. Today more than 600 million people have Facebook accounts. The average user spends seven hours a month posting photos, chatting with friends, swapping news links and sending birthday greetings to classmates. Now the company is looking to cash in on this mother lode of personal information by helping advertisers pinpoint exactly who they want to reach. This is no idle boast. Facebook doesn’t have to guess who its users are or what they like. Facebook knows, because members volunteer this information freely — and frequently — in their profiles, status updates, wall posts, messages and “likes.” It now is tracking this activity, shooting online ads to users based on their demographics, interests, even what they say to friends on the site — sometimes within minutes of them typing a key word or phrase.

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