Facebook Rejects Claims of 'Mood-Based Advertising'

John Lister's picture

Facebook is rejecting claims that it let advertisers target users based on their current mood. It says research into the technology was carried out, but not used for advertising.

"The Australian" newspaper report was based on leaked internal data that says Facebook could figure out mood swings based on combined data from user posts and pictures, the interactions they had with other users, and other activity on the site.

Some of the moods which Facebook could reportedly discover included feeling anxious, defeated, nervous, overwhelmed, silly, stressed, stupid, useless or a failure. The program was said to be based on a database covering school, university students, and young workers.

Bank Was Report Target

According to the newspaper, the report was prepared for one of Australia's top banks and referred to Facebook being able to spot "moments when young people need a confidence boost." The report did make clear that any information Facebook collected in this way would only be shared with organizations willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement and that it would not be made publicly available. (Source: techcrunch.com)

Many people reading the newspaper article concluded that Facebook was offering to let advertisers know when users were experiencing a particular mood that might mean a specific advertisement would be relevant or effective.

Data 'Anonymous And Aggregated'

Facebook has confirmed that the bank which received the report was indeed one of its advertisers. However, it says it doesn't offer any tools to target people based on their emotions.

It added that "The analysis done by an Australian researcher was intended to help marketers understand how people express themselves on Facebook. It was never used to target ads and was based on data that was anonymous and aggregated. Facebook has an established process to review the research we perform. This research did not follow that process, and we are reviewing the details to correct the oversight." (Source: fb.com)

What's Your Opinion?

Do you think it's possible to work out people's mood from their Facebook activity? Would it be acceptable for Facebook to share such details with advertisers? Does it make any difference that this program involved schoolchildren?

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Dennis Faas's picture

Let's review the facts here. Facebook says it doesn't engage in mood-based advertising, but it was a major bank - who also happens to be one of its advertisers - that the report was being compiled for. Not long ago Facebook also said it can figure out your political views based on activity on their site - as such, it's not inconceivable to have Facebook algorithmically figure out your mood based on similar circumstances. That said, we also know (from research) that impulse buying can be very lucrative for advertisers. Based on all of that, I would have to say that the bank is likely lying when it says that the report was meant to determine when "young people need a confidence boost". I'm sure it was more like: "when young people needed an advertising boost."