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Facebook, privacy, and growth

It’s Advertising Week in New York, so Facebook posted to its users an explanation of how social media marketing and privacy can co-exist, prior to trumpeting its wares to Madison Avenue.  And of course the Wall Street Journal, the self-appointed privacy cop of mainstream media, offers its own take. Quoting:

At the core of Facebook’s expanding ad strategy is the fact that the social network knows a lot about its users’ true identities. While Google largely makes inferences about people based on their searching and browsing habits, Facebook is built on people volunteering personal information that’s valuable to marketers, including names, friends, phone numbers and tastes.

If only. Facebook would love to convince advertisers it had such an effective marketing platform. Besides that fact that Google and Yahoo both agree with Facebook that maintaining an authentic single identity is critical for reasons other than advertising, the naiveté of calling a search an inference – search is way, way more predictive of purchase intent than Likes will ever be – just makes you shake your head.

But then Facebook pulls this. I’m paraphrasing, “Dear FTC, Like buttons represent freedom of speech, so they shouldn’t have to adhere to COPPA kids’ privacy standards.” While trying to enforce COPPA on a distributed network is probably impossible, did the company really have to call attention to it right now? Especially when just about everyone thinks the Like infrastructure will eventually power an ad network?

That so-far hypothetical ad network would be a much more lucrative service than analytics sold separately. So perhaps whining about COPPA is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t dilemma.