Facebook research targeting ‘insecure’ teens sparks privacy concerns

Facebook shared research with at least one advertiser that outlined how the tech firm can target teens who feel “worthless” or “insecure,” raising privacy concerns about the data it’s gathering on young users.

A 23-page document leaked to The Australian states that Facebook can figure out through posts, photos and online activity when teens feel stressed, anxious or other “moments when young people need a confidence boost.”

The media outlet claims that the document not only raises “profound ethical questions” but shows how the world’s largest social network is gathering data on the emotional state of teens to sell targeted ads.

“Anticipatory emotions are more likely to be expressed early in the week, while reflective emotions increase on the weekend,” according to the document, which was prepared this year by two Facebook Australian executives. “Monday-Thursday is about building confidence; the weekend is for broadcasting achievements.”

In a statement posted online, Facebook called the premise of the article “misleading,” noting that it doesn’t offer advertisers tools to target users based on their emotional state.

“The analysis done by an Australian researcher was intended to help marketers understand how people express themselves on Facebook. It was never used to target ads and was based on data that was anonymous and aggregated,” the company said.

But Facebook, which has 1.9 billion users, also acknowledged that the leaked research did not follow its review process and said it will be looking into the oversight.

This isn’t the first time that Facebook has come under fire for questionable advertising practices.

Last year, the tech firm made changes to prevent discriminatory ad practices after facing criticism that it allowed advertisers to exclude target audiences based on their “ethnic affinity.”

Photo Credit: Associated Press


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