Facebook's release of Atlas reveals it to be less social network and more an aggressive digital ad platform for which an authenticated, credit-scored identity is the price of engagement.
On Monday. according to the New York Times, Facebook will be rolling out its new ad platform, Atlas, which the company believes will enable it to dethrone Google as the number one digital ad platform in the world, by
Facebook built itself into the No. 2 digital advertising platform in the world by analyzing the vast amount of data it had on each of its 1.3 billion users to sell individually targeted ads on its social network.
Now it is going to take those targeted ads to the rest of the Internet, mounting its most direct challenge yet to Google, the leader in digital advertising with nearly one-third of the global market.
On Monday, Facebook will roll out a rebuilt ad platform, called Atlas, that will allow marketers to tap its detailed knowledge of its users to direct ads to those people on thousands of other websites and mobile apps. On Monday, Facebook will roll out a rebuilt ad platform, called Atlas, that will allow marketers to tap its detailed knowledge of its users to direct ads to those people on thousands of other websites and mobile apps.
“We are bringing all of the people-based marketing functions that marketers are used to doing on Facebook and allowing them to do that across the web,” David Jakubowski, the company’s head of advertising technology, said in an interview.
[...] If successful, such cross-platform advertising could create a new revenue stream for Facebook and offer marketers an attractive alternative to ad networks run by Google, Yahoo, Apple and others.
“Facebook has deep, deep data on its users. You can slice and dice markets, like women 25 to 35 who live in the Southeast and are fans of ‘Breaking Bad,’ ” said Rebecca Lieb, a digital advertising and media analyst at the Altimeter Group, a research firm. The new Atlas platform, she said, “can track people across devices, weave together online and offline.”
But such detailed tracking of Facebook users on and off the service also raises privacy concerns.
Despite the "Real Names" policy -- a crackdown on user identities that are not real -- and a subsequent outcry by drag performers led by Sister Roma of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in San Francisco, which included involvement of San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, Facebook has refused to budge.
(San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener, who is running for reelection, and who represents San Franciscos District Eight (which includes the Castro from which many of the Sisters hail, chose not to get involved. Marc Zuckerberg's ten million dollar house in Dolorese Heights, which seems to be under perpetual construction and is pissing off neighbors, also fall under Wiener's District.)
But rather than acknowledge the truth of their motives, Facebook positioned this dangerous policy by claiming the objective of the policy is to protect people from bullying and harassment online - the very things that revealing true identities will enable, not only for drag performers, but stalking victims, transgender individuals and whistle blowers, for whom anonymity is often times the difference between life and death, not, as Mark Zuckerberg has stated, a lack of integrity.
The same integrity that Facebook displayed when it was revealed to be the culprit behind an ugly, hypocritical and anonymous smear campaign designed to damage the credibility of a Google search innovation, Social Circle, by getting reporters and influencers to focus a negative lens on its privacy implications.
Despite Facebook's claims in the wake of privacy concerns, there is precious little the company has said regarding privacy that it hasn't later reneged on or reintroduced differently. Facebook's typical modus operandi is to make an egregious three-step privacy violation that evokes a storm of outrage, after which they reluctantly agree to push back two steps. Moving forward incrementally each time. As they have grown bigger and bigger, their desire to placate the public appears to have become less and less of a priority.
But Facebook’s combination of real identity and voluntarily disclosed personal information makes it a particularly valuable tool for marketers.
The Facebook login is most useful on mobile devices, where traditional web tracking tools like cookies and pixel tags do not work. If a person is logged into the Facebook app on a smartphone, the company has the ability to see what other apps he or she is using and could show ads within those apps. “Nobody else besides Facebook has the depth of data about individuals,” said Debra Aho Williamson, a principal analyst at the research firm eMarketer. “That’s where the power of this ad platform is going to come from.”
Facebook's brazen and unapologetic crackdown on real names may have seriously rocked the boat this time, as evidenced by a spike in usage to a new social network 'Ello which seems to be worthy enough to mention in the New York Times. But 'Ello, despite its promise not to use customer information for advertising, has its own issues, with inherently vague and problematic privacy and content policies that will inevitable and quickly rise to the surface. In addition to shady omissions that the new start-up was enabled by an infusion of $435,000 Round One venture capital. And most of the members I've spoken to informally who have joined 'Ello have not yet deleted their Facebook profiles either.
The release of Atlas on Monday is not simply a new revenue model for Facebook, it's a loud and clear indicator that its existence has shifted from being a convenient social network to allow users to connect with family and friends, but rather an aggressive advertising platform that is not willing to provide anyone who doesn't have an authenticated, credit-scored identity the privilege of engagement.
UPDATE: Owing to some kick-ass activism, Facebook reversed course and apologized for the application of its Real Names policy. And I, stand corrected. On that item specifically.