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Facebook Australia Tried Profiting From Depressed Users

Vicente Vera, Opinions Editor

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To a stranger, reading through someone’s Facebook posts could either help him become familiar with the user, or help him die of boredom. To Facebook Australia, reading through Facebook posts is a necessity if they want to make more money from ad revenue. Even if the user is emotionally unstable — which can mean more money.

A 23-page leaked document discovered by The Australian, revealed that Facebook executives in Australia allegedly tried to exploit data collected on visibly depressed teen users in order to start new advertising campaigns.

Had this initiative gone unnoticed, Facebook Australia would have been able to aim depression oriented ads to users who display signs of despair.

“Moments when young people need a confidence boost” was the best time to target them with ads — according to the document. Among the categories that the users were placed in include, "defeated," "silly," "stupid," and "a failure." Though Facebook claimed that the data “was intended to help marketers understand how people express themselves on Facebook.”

But the bigger question that Facebook Australia should be answering — is all of this moral? Whether the data was even used or not?

Some might argue that this is immoral because — had this data been used to target vulnerable users — advertisers are using extremely sensitive information about the user to turn a profit off of them. In a sense, they would take advantage of them during their weakest moments. For example, if a user were to post a status telling their friends that they were going through a breakup, the information is then given to advertisers, and in turn, they would display dating service ads on your profile.

Some might argue that this is moral because the users are willingly to share their information publicly. The user had the option to not share their feelings online, so if they do, they shouldn’t expect privacy. Advertisers are just using the already available information to sell you something you might want, based on your feelings.

Though Facebook claims they never intended to target depressed users for advertisements, the story still raises questions of internet privacy. An important thing to remember — whatever you post on the internet, it will stay there forever, even if you delete it. Facebook already collects your data to sell to advertisers, so in a sense, the companies know what you’re thinking and what you want.

The scary aspect is many people may not know that their publicly posted information is being collected — whether it be by advertising companies, or just curious strangers.

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The student news site of Ohlone College
Facebook Australia Tried Profiting From Depressed Users