Facebook targets ‘insecure’ teens

Daily News Article - May 2, 2017


1. What did secret Facebook documents reveal about the company’s program targeting Australian young people? Be specific.
b) What do the Facebook documents reveal about the company? (see paragraph 14)

2. How did Facebook gather the information about the emotions of younger users?

3. Why is the company gathering this detailed personal information on its younger users?

4. What information does Facebook provide to its advertisers from this secret information gathering? — How does Facebook use the information it secretly gains from teens? (see para. 17-19)

5. a) Describe Facebook’s response to The Australian news.
b) What do you think the company means when it says they will “undertake disciplinary and other processes”?
c) Should users who had personal / emotional details sold to advertisers be satisfied with Facebook’s response? Explain your answer.

6. a) Do you think Facebook gathers the same information about American users that it does about Australian teen users? Explain your answer.
b) Why is the 14-26 age group so important/lucrative to Facebook?

7. Read the following from an news .com.au article on the same story that is included in “Background” below the questions:

Mark Zuckerberg’s company has not been shy about exploring ways it can manipulate the data it collects on users.

For one week in 2012, Facebook ran an experiment on some of its users in which it altered the algorithms it used determine which status updates appeared in the news feed of nearly 700,000 randomly selected users based on the post’s emotional content.

Posts were determined to be either negative or positive and Facebook wanted to see if it could make the selected group sad by showing them more negative posts in their feed. It deemed it could.

The results were published in a scientific journal but Facebook was criticized by those concerned about the potential of the company to engage in social engineering for commercial benefit.

Currently information about your relationship status, location, age, number of friends and the manner and frequency with which you access the site is sold to advertisers. But according to the report, Facebook is also seeking to sell ads to users concerned with insights gleaned from posts such as those concerned with body confidence and losing weight.

a) What is your initial reaction to this information?

b) One reader wrote: “Don’t be fooled. These companies exist only to make billions of dollars for their founders and shareholders. They claim to be do-gooders and while they support some good causes to make themselves feel good about being multi-billionaires, it is at the expense not only of your privacy, but manipulating your thoughts and emotions for their own purposes.”
Do you agree or disagree with this assertion? Explain your answer.