For a lawyer — especially a lawyer facing a Bonfire of the Vanities-worthy media frenzy, a meddling Congress, watchdog groups barking at his door and an inchoate Intifada by his longest-standing and most important partner — Schrage was pretty forthcoming; most lobbyist / marketers would equivocate their way out of a similar mess.
Actually, if you read the Times blog post closely enough, Schrage effectively admits it’s that sort of behavior that has put Facebook in hot water:
“Our desire to innovate and create new opportunities for people to share sometimes conflicts with our goal to create an easy and accessible user experience,” he wrote in the introduction. “It takes forums like this to get better ideas and insights about your needs.”
Which is the purpose behind this post. I’d like to put, in layman’s terms, Schrage’s answers to each of the questions posed, and either provide the answer I wish he had given — that is, an answer that is the plain truth about why Facebook does what it does — or expand on what he said.
Q: “Why can’t you leave well enough alone? Why do I have to do a weekly ritual of checking to see what new holes you’ve slashed into the Facebook Security Blanket, so that I have to go and hide or delete yet more stuff? Are Facebook customers really pounding on your door screaming that they want more categories of their personal data to be available to marketers every few months?”
Schrage: We are clearly upsetting people by making changes as often as we do. No personally identifiable information is shared with advertisers.
Me: Social media is young. What works and what is profitable changes quickly; what fit into the way Facebook did things, even just a few months ago, may be cutting off opportunities to make money or head off challenges from other social media providers today. That’s why things change so much: To protect and grow Facebook’s market share.
If you’re going to complain about Web advertising based on browsing habits, you probably should have stopped using the Web back in 1996. And if you’ve ever used a coupon, promo code, frequent buyer card or gift card, I’d like to kick you in the butt as I explain what, exactly, constitutes behavior-based marketing.