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.