Last year, Facebook made it that much easier for parents-to-be to overshare by giving expectant users the ability to add unborn babies to family profiles and announce pregnancy due dates via a highlighted "life event" on their timelines.
If you bothered to read the fine print when these changes rolled out, it might have seemed like both upgrades came with assurances that this kind of personal information would not be disclosed to advertisers.
Well, guess what? Some moms are now complaining that the social networking giant is doing just that, and the proof is in the non-stop stream of advertisements for pregnancy- and baby-related goods that now await them whenever they log in.
"I added my due date to my timeline on a Sunday, and by Wednesday, I saw my first ad for baby strollers," claims Kara D'Angelo, a Boston area mom expecting her second child. "Now that my due date is just a few weeks ago, my Facebook page has basically become a huge ad for baby stuff. If I want to surf Facebook as a way to escape thinking about my pregnancy for a few minutes, forget it."
Siobhan Freegard, founder of Netmums.com, a UK-based parenting forum, tells The Telelgraph that Facebook's ad policy is troubling because the company initially said it would not use this kind of "life event" data for marketing.
"What's disturbing here is Facebook told mums-to-be they are not collecting their information for marketing use—but then have done exactly that," argues Freegard.
Is she right? While Facebook definitely has its issues when it comes to confusing privacy controls, there may not be very much here to become irate over. Whenever users enter any kind of information about themselves on their profile, Facebook collects this information and sells it to advertisers in "bundles" or "packets" without any specific information about individual users. In return, you get more targeted and relevant ads and sponsored stories. For all its secrecy in other areas, the company is actually pretty up front about this policy:
We only provide data to our advertising partners or customers after we have removed your name or any other personally identifying information from it, or have combined it with other people's data in a way that it is no longer associated with you.
In other words, Facebook is not selling your last name, address, or phone number... yet.
For Freegard, however, this still isn't good enough because—wait a minute—if we're giving up something, what are we really getting in return?
"While many women willingly give away personal details about their pregnancies to marketing firms, they do this knowingly and usually in return for free product samples or discount vouchers," she says.
Hmm... Mark Zuckerberg, are you listening?