Fake Social Profile Info Impedes Ad Targeting

A senior British government official told attendees at a recent "The Parliament and the Internet" conference to give fake information to protect personal information.

The BBC reports Andy Smith, an Internet security chief at the Cabinet Office, said people should only give accurate details to trusted sites, such as those run by the government, and fake details to social networking sites. The comments were backed by Lord Erroll, chairman of the Digital Policy Alliance.

Aside from the idea of giving fake information in profiles to foster a safe haven from predators, one concern advertisers have remains the accuracy of information relied on to target ads.

Search engines and some retargeting display ad strategies rely on intent data from clicks and searches, but social media ad targeting starts by tapping information in profiles. Depending on the widespread use of fake information in profiles, it should make marketers rethink ways to determine whether all impressions are valid.

Fake information in social profiles means that ads will serve up to Facebook users based on their falsified profile data, as ad targeting parameters, like gender and age, come straight from the user profile data, said Larry Kim, Wordstream founder.

Adam Schoenfeld, Simply Measured CEO and co-founder, called putting fake information in social profiles "pretty extreme advice" to protect personal information and suggested turning up profile privacy settings as a more practical approach, compared with lying.

"If users go that route, it would certainly have an impact on ad targeting," Schoenfeld said. "The extent depends on how broadly users lie about their profile information."

Facebook has five dimensions of ad targeting: Location, Age & Birthday, Interests, Education, and Connections. With that, users would have to go to great lengths to lie about every dimension, and they would have to purposefully limit their network connections. It could get to the point where even your friends wouldn't be able to find your profile, Schoenfeld said.

Seth Besmertnik, CEO and co-founder of Conductor, said fake information in profiles makes social ad targeting ineffective. "Google surfs the intent wave," he said. "On Facebook you don't really have intent. You have profiles."

If the person really doesn't like pottery as the profile suggests, retailers like Pottery Barn just waste money because the Facebook user would not like to share the ad. Eventually, the return on investment will drop.

False information in profiles would also affect ad retargeting, which is based off browser cookies, according to Matt Lawson, vice president of marketing at Marin Software. Consumers visiting a Web site using a Facebook Exchange vendor to retarget drops a cookie in the visitor's browser.

"When logged in to Facebook, that cookie will identify the user and determine the ad to show them," Lawson said.

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2 comments about "Fake Social Profile Info Impedes Ad Targeting".
  1. Larry Kim from WordStream, Inc. , October 30, 2012 at 10:41 a.m.
    I love this line: "people should only give accurate details to trusted sites, such as those run by the government". (heh).
  2. Allen MacCannell from WebCEO , November 1, 2012 at 8:06 p.m.
    It's only been during the past year that the long held tradition of Internet anonymity has been under attack by those who pretend the tradition never existed. The cornerstone of free speech is the right to anonymity, such as in posting bills on public bulletin boards in taverns in the Middle Ages. All the best literature has been written anonymously, political correctness has always held tyrannical power in every society so it's been alarming to see Facebook commenting under political news articles the past year with no option for people to opt out of identifying themselves (by their Facebook profile). A person can write what might be an informed and intelligent political opinion but, nonetheless, 50-80% of other readers might emotionally disagree with it.

    We may as well all be publishing online who we'll be voting for on November 6th. Remember that even the people who wrote the Bible had to protect themselves with a cloak of anonymity.

    Just last May I used a Facebook commenting system, against my better judgement to say that I felt the original Dark Shadows TV series had a bigger effect on American culture than the Brady Bunch TV series. I noted that Dark Shadows spawned the Anne Rice novels, Buffy, Twilight, True Blood, etc.

    I was subsequently attacked by Brady Bunch fans who used vile language to condemn me as the worst kind of criminal for suggesting that their beloved show wasn't the most influential series of all time.

    I wished that I had been anonymous when I slighted the Brady Bunch fans that way. My good name was dragged through the mud.

    And if one can't discuss the Brady Bunch using one's real name, one definitely shouldn't talk about politics, religion and sex using your real name online. That's just not how it was done for the first 18 years of the Internet and it shouldn't have to be the way it's done for the next 180 years. Corporate interests should have zero say in this matter.

    If anyone reading this wants to be 29 for life, that's their business. Not Facebook's, not Google's, not any company except maybe a health insurance firm.

    If some guy wants to pretend he likes pottery, it's his fault if he then gets hit with pottery ads. It isn't his responsibility that corporations might be wasting dollars paying for ads that won't be so effective on him. Caveat emptor. Even back in the 1950s, I'm sure people were filling in fake info about their interests on forms in order to hurry up and enter a contest to win a car or something. The ad world just assumed that they were getting mostly good data.

    Any corporate pressure to make laws that force people to identify themselves and tell God's honest truth about their vital stats and preferences at all times, so ads will be effective at all times, should be opposed in the strongest terms.