How much you are worth to Facebook, is a question that has been bugging researchers at the University of Madrid for a while – enough for them to create an application providing the answer to each individual Facebook user in real time.
The tool, dubbed ‘Facebook Data Visualisation Tool’ (FDVT), can be downloaded as a free extension for Google Chrome, and soon enough for Firefox and Opera.
The application is easy to use. Once having downloaded it, the user enters some basic identity data including his age, gender, relationship status, interests, country, etc. Once it’s done, the tool immediately starts identifying the profile’s economic value on the advertising market in real time. The ‘real time’ part is really important, as Facebook advertising is a volatile sector with highly varying supply and demand.
“Evidently, each of us has a different market price according to our profile, so the tool will give you an estimate of what you are generating,” explained Ángel and Rubén Cuevas, UC3M professors and developers of the new app. “When you connect to Facebook and receive an ad, what we do is obtaining its associated value, the price that those advertisers pay for displaying those ads or each ‘click’ that you make on one of those ads.”
The two researchers notably noticed that the average cost of a user in Spain is roughly half of the cost of a user in the US.
Among the most interesting facts one will notice when using FDVT is that Facebook continually makes profit, whether you are actually clicking on an ad or not.
As Ángel Cuevas noted, ‘The advertising sector increasingly “profiles down to the last detail” their potential customers.”
Concretely, this means that – based on his web activity and characteristics – a user will receive increasingly personalized ads, so as to improve the advertiser’s return on investment.
“There must be ‘a balance’ between this personalization of advertising (which can be expressly agreed to by users in order to improve their experience) and the guarantee of maintaining basic rights,” Cuevas said.
The team insists that their intention with FDVT was not to demonize Facebook, but rather to push them to report what they do in all transparency.
The development of FDVT was part of the broader TYPES project funded under Horizon 2020. This project, which worries about current consequences of opaque advertising practices in the form of ad blockers disrupting the digital economy, aims at defining, implementing, and validating technologies and tools to guarantee privacy and transparency. With these tools, they intend to provide end users with control upon the amount of information they share.
The TYPES project is due for completion in October 2017.