Most knowledgeable Facebook users understand the site possesses a ton of information about us. However, what the site does with that data can be somewhat of a mystery. That’s why it was so shocking this week when an Australian newspaper obtained an alleged 23-page leaked document from Facebook detailing how it can help advertisers target emotionally vulnerable children.
The report, published in The Australian, said Facebook monitors posts, pictures and other activity in real time to determine when young users feel “stressed,” “defeated,” “overwhelmed,” “anxious,” and a whole host of other negative emotions. That information could theoretically then be provided to advertisers, presumably so they can take advantage of these vulnerable teens by showing ads keyed into their emotions.
At first, Facebook issued a sort of apology, noting that the report represented a “process failure” and an “oversight.” However, interestingly, the social media giant seemed to walk back its apology in a later statement.
“The premise of the article is misleading. Facebook does not offer tools to target people based on their emotional state,” the company said in a blog post. “The analysis… was intended to help marketers understand how people express themselves on Facebook. It was never used to target ads.”
No matter what Facebook is doing with the information, it’s still beyond disturbing that it closely observes teenagers and tracks their emotions.