During what feels like years ago, but was actually just a few weeks, Mark Zuckerberg testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee answering questions about Facebook; their business model and their involvement with Cambridge Analytica. And, while sitting atop his booster seat in the United States Senate, Zuckerberg was asked what some felt were some pretty basic questions about how Facebook works and makes money. As it is wont to do, the internet had jokes:
“Mr. Zuckerberg, a magazine i recently opened came with a floppy disk offering me 30 free hours of something called America On-Line. Is that the same as Facebook?” pic.twitter.com/U7pqpUhEhQ
— Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) April 10, 2018
While I was disappointed that Senators couldn’t do a basic Google search about this stuff before sitting down and interviewing one of the most powerful men in technology, the knowledge gaps they displayed brought to light a bigger issue; a lot of people don’t really know much about Facebook. But everyone has knowledge gaps and they aren’t all fit for ridicule. For example, I have no idea what it means to balance a checkbook or how to even begin doing that. I’m sure there are plenty of people reading this screaming “how could you not know how to do that??” and others saying “wait what’s a checkbook?” But that is a Google search for another day. For now, I’m going to do my best to answer some of the Senate’s questions about Facebook.
How does Facebook Make Money?
Just like McDonalds isn’t really in the hamburger business but is actually in the real estate business, Facebook is primarily in the advertising business. As a free service, it has to make money some way and it rakes in billions of dollars in advertising money. As a marketing firm, this is something we use to promote our clients. We pay Facebook to bring ads to specific users we want to target; also known as targeted advertising. The way we’re able to target specific users is from information users have voluntarily offered about themselves on their profile page or through page likes. However, Facebook keeps this data anonymous by grouping people into demographics and keeping advertisers from being able to deep dive into who is specifically in those groups.
Is there a way to use Facebook ad-free?
No. Facebook has never been ad-free. While there are some discussions about possible premium ad-free memberships, there is nothing available today. However, you can turn off third-party data sharing so you no longer see targeted ads, like those mentioned above. In his testimony, Zuckerberg implied this isn’t much better:
“What we found is that even though some people don’t like ads, people really don’t like ads that aren’t relevant. And while there is some discomfort for sure with using information in making ads more relevant, the overwhelming feedback that we get from our community is that people would rather have us show relevant content there than not.”
Who owns my Facebook data, Facebook or me?
You own your own Facebook data, and you choose what to do with it. It says so in the Terms and Conditions that you probably never read because it’s hundreds of pages long.
Whenever you first sign in to another app through Facebook, the app is required to ask permission to use your data. Once they have the data, Facebook requires all of its apps to keep the data to itself. Unfortunately, in the Cambridge Analytica case, an app sold its collected data to the firm. The app was banned from Facebook and Cambridge Analytica was ordered not to use the data, but the company failed to follow up and ensure Cambridge Analytica did not.
Want more information about the Cambridge Analytica scandal and what it means for the future of Facebook? We have a blog for that!
Looking for more answers to your questions about Facebook? Hit me up at @PageJones31 on Twitter! (Oh, the irony)
And check out this conversation about what’s next for business owners on Facebook