Facebook collects a lot of information on it’s users, mainly for advertising purposes, but also for other reasons, such as product development and so on. This information can help Facebook figure out what might be interesting to its users, and also helps advertisers figure out what type of ads to serve to certain people. Currently Facebook collects demographic and behavioral data. The demographic data really shows who the people are, from their age, gender, employment status and so on. The behavioural data shows them what they’re users like, and who they are friends with and so on.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook wants to take this data collection to the next level, by tracking cursor movements. They’ll be able to collect information about where your cursor is on screen, how long it hovers over a certain part of the page, and whether you are looking at your news feed, or not.
Currently, Facebook is in the process of testing this system out, which should help them determine whether they should fully implement a system like this into the company.
If Facebook does go ahead with the system, they won’t be alone. Shutterstock already does the same thing, tracking user’s cursor movements. They use software called Hadoop, which allows them to track cursor movements. Facebook uses a modified version of it to keep track of data.
So, with this in mind, is data collection such as this going too far? Some might argue yes, this is too much. They shouldn’t be collecting information such as this. But in this case, with a free service, maybe they aren’t going too far. Facebook makes a lot of money off advertising. So although users may be pissed about something like this, for Facebook, it could be very beneficial, which I’ll get into in a minute.
Remember, the service is free. We can’t really complain. If users were paying Facebook to provide them this service, then we’d have more rights to complain about it. Besides, a lot of people would have to stop using Facebook to make a big enough statement that would almost force them to make changes, with the way things currently work. Think about it, Facebook has a billion active users. That’s a lot. A few people here and there aren’t going to be able to make a big enough statement unfortunately.
But back to my point about how Facebook is a business, and how it needs to make money, which for the most part, is done through advertising. What makes advertising on Facebook so appealing for a lot of advertisers, is the fact that people spend a lot of time on the site, and users provide so much information. Facebook is able to collect this information, making it visible to advertisers, just without names. This allows advertisers to create more targeted ads. If Facebook were to begin collecting information on where a cursor was on the screen, it would allow advertisers to see where to put ads to make them more effective, and it would also allow Facebook to charge more for these spaces, making Facebook more money.
Think about a newspaper, a large ad on the front page will be seen by more people than any other ad in the newspaper. It’s much more expensive than other advertising spots, but that’s because it can reach more people. Think about it, even people just walking by the paper would see an ad like that.
So by taking that logic into the digital realm, it only makes sense for Facebook to charge more for advertising spots that are the most effective. This could make Facebook a ton of money in the long run. This could also mean that Facebook advertising, and the way it currently works could change a bit. Tracking user behaviour is very beneficial to advertisers.
It could also help Facebook redesign their website. If they know where people are looking the most, and where they look the least, they could redesign the site to flow better, making it easier for users to look at, and in terms of advertising, maybe moving advertising spots to different parts of the site, where more people will see it.
Currently, its a little difficult to choose where you’d like your ad to appear, but if they made slight changes to how Facebook advertising worked, information like this could allow advertisers to make their ads even more effective, by making use of spots on a page that people generally look at the most. Personally, I think the most effective place for advertising on Facebook is in the news feed. Data collection like the type Facebook is currently testing will most likely show that people look at the news feed a lot. Currently, the only ads you really see in the news feed are sponsored posts, but testing like this could be discretely signaling change when it comes to Facebook advertising, giving advertisers more options, more data and so on.