A former Facebook staff member has claimed that Facebook can absolutely target advertising according to how someone feels, but says it is perfectly within its rights to do so.
Earlier this week, a leaked Facebook research presentation sent to an advertiser was reported in The Australian, with the newspaper claiming that the emotional states of users, especially young people, could be exploited to target advertising.
The social media firm vehemently denied this, saying the article was “misleading”.
Now former Facebook product manager, Antonio Garcia-Martinez has told The Guardian that such denials are “disingenuous”.
“If the intention of Facebook’s public relations spin is to give the impression that such targeting is not even possible on their platform, I’m here to tell you I believe they’re lying through their teeth,” he said.
For Garcia-Martinez, who worked at Facebook from 2011 to 2013, the ability of the social network to do such targetting was not under question. The issue was whether the company is obliged to uphold an unwritten moral code.
“Let’s assume Facebook does target ads at depressed teens. My reaction? So what. Sometimes data behaves unethically.”
Business Insider contacted Facebook Australia for comment on the claims by Garcia-Martinez. The company referred back to its earlier statement denying emotion-targetted advertising occurs.
“Facebook does not offer tools to target people based on their emotional state,” the company said.
“The analysis done by an Australian researcher was intended to help marketers understand how people express themselves on Facebook. It was never used to target ads and was based on data that was anonymous and aggregated.”
The current functionality on Facebook allows each user to control what pieces of information the social network can and cannot use for its advertising demographics.
But Garcia-Martinez, who has also been an advisor for Twitter, said the fact that such a presentation was made to an advertiser raises questions about its motives.
“Knowing the Facebook sales playbook, I cannot imagine the company would have concocted such a pitch about teenage emotions without the final hook: ‘and this is how you execute this on the Facebook ads platform’. Why else would they be making the pitch?”