It’s a well known fact that Facebook sells our personal information to companies for targeted advertising. Just make one search for any product you want and soon, you’ll see it pop up on your Facebook feed.
While we also know that Facebook uses algorithms that produce echo chambers of ideas on feeds and hinder discourse, last Thursday, they tried to shift the blame.
In an April 28 press release, Facebook detailed the deceptive and subtle techniques used by governments and other entities to spread misleading or false information to manipulate elections and disrupt discourse.
“We have had to expand our security focus from traditional abusive behavior, such as account hacking, malware, spam and financial scams, to include more subtle and insidious forms of misuse,” Facebook said.
This would make it seem as if Facebook genuinely cared about their users, both in respect to their privacy and their general well-being.
However, two days ago, secret documents leaked to The Australian newspaper detailed Facebook’s efforts to “exploit the moods and insecurities of teenagers using the platform for the potential benefit of advertisers.”
This new information suggests that not only are ad interests considered, but now, your emotions are being quantified as well. They engage in behavior manipulation for teenagers as young as 14 and can do it to anyone.
Basically, Facebook is mining through comments and posts using a sentiment analysis algorithm to find depressed young teens. Then, they manipulate their feeds to promote specific products and posts in order to influence behavior and attitude.
So, since you’re not going to stop using Facebook, there are steps you can take to further protect your privacy. You can delete the app from your phone, especially the messenger app, and only use the native website. You could also install an ad-blocker for your browser on your computer and your phone (we recommend UBlock Origin).
Not only does this new algorithm raise privacy issues for the young people whose emotions are being studied and tracked, but it raises concerns for you too.
Let’s face it, we’re not going to stop using Facebook, and as dedicated Facebook users, we are complicit in these activities. This should call us to advocate for intentional changes to Facebook’s privacy policies and refuse to be manipulated.