How far can Facebook continue to go with scraping its users data for internal marketing purposes?
Facebook continues to test its users to see how much it can push you to expand its member base via its Facebook friend finder application that they have being heavily promoting lately. But today I noticed that it’s now pushing me further to use its Find friend feature by scraping my Instant Messenger screen names off my profile and adding it into the user name section with a prompt to just enter my AIM password.
Facebook says that it won’t store my password but I know from several months ago when I used its Friend Finder feature to look though my Hotmail address book, it scrapped every single name it could and continues to try to suggest that I know that person because they were found in my Hotmail account. A large number of the names that Facebook scrapped from my Hotmail account were not someone I was ever friends with or would want to have part of my network because I don’t actually know them personally, I had sent or received an email from them at some point.
Facebook did a wonderful job of finding any person that I have ever had contact with via email and to this day continues to try to suggest them as someone I might know, when it is pulling the names/data from a database it gained from my Hotmail account. It’s this type of invasion of privacy that makes me think twice before offering it to connect it with more of my external social data.
I decided today that I would add in the my own user names for a number of IM profiles and see how quickly it had an impact using the username “I want privacy” before Facebook would start trying to get me to user its Friend Importer for the various IM services.
It took just a few minutes for the Facebook internal marketing database to take that information and deliver a very concerning banner at the top of my Facebook news feed, with my new username “I want privacy”. While I think that it looks like its matching my friends up who are also using Skype or have it listed on their profile, but no it seems that the friend finder uses random names to populate the suggestion box. But it does seem that the friend finder suggestion tool is picking friends that you engage with via writing on their wall, commenting on their status updates or photos, so this might be yet another sign Facebook tracks and watches everything you do online!
Not content with my point I made another change, but won’t repeat what new username is shown in the screenshot below, but you get the idea. Following this post I have removed all my IM screen names on my profile to reduce the amount of internal marketing Facebook can target to me, but its a shame that by Facebook’s behaviour they are encouraging you to slowly remove all your personal details.
So the question is how much can you put up with Facebook using your own profile information for its internal marketing purposes, and its likely one of the many reasons that so many people who have been using it for years continue to leave and close down their accounts.