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What’s on your mind?

Monday 1st May 2017

Is Facebook selling information about your mood to advertisers? 

Facebook wants to know what's on your mind.

 

Facebook may be passing on information about young users’ moods so advertisers can target people when they “need a confidence boost.” 

A report by newspaper The Australian alleges a leaked internal document from the social media giant’s Sydney offices details the ways Facebook can use information gleaned from the accounts of millions of New Zealanders and Australians averaging in age between 16 and 26. 

But a Facebook spokeswoman denies the information is being given to advertisers, and says the leaked report did not correctly follow the company's research process: “We are reviewing the details to correct the oversight,” she said. 

“Facebook does not offer tools to target people based on their emotional state,” a statement from the company read.  

Though the research detailed in the leaked 23 page document was shared with an advertiser, it was intended to “help marketers understand how people express themselves on Facebook,” the statement read.

“It was never used to target ads and was based on data that was anonymous and aggregated.”

According to the article by The Australian's media editor Darren Davidson, the leaked document is marked “Confidential: Internal Only”. 

The article claims Facebook can work out when people are feeling a range of moods including “stressed”, “defeated”, “anxious” and a “failure,” by monitoring real-time activity. 

According to the article the social network is gathering information from 1.9 million high school aged users with an average age of 16, 1.5m tertiary students averaging 21 years old, and 3 million young workers averaging 26 years old.

Advertising Standards Authority chief executive Hilary Souter told the Wireless that the placement of adverts was something the authority took into account when considering complaints. This was especially the case when therapeutic or weight loss products were being advertised to young people. 

“If there are products targeting young people, and there was some concern, we could certainly look at that,” Souter said. 

She said anyone with concerns about the types of advertising appearing on young people’s Facebook pages should take a screenshot and make a complaint via the asa website.



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Susan Strongman is an Auckland-based journalist at The Wireless. She is interested in social issues, human rights and people, but likes to spend her spare time with her cats.
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