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Facebook faces criticism for targeting pregnant women with advertising based on their due date and gender of their unborn baby.The social networking firm introduced the ability for members to add unborn babies as family members to their profiles last year and has now begun using the data as part of its advertising business.
The founder of Netmums.com, a parenting forum, said the way Facebook had brought in the feature was “disturbing” after it initially said it did not use “life event” data for advertising.
“While many women willingly give away personal details about their pregnancies to marketing firms, they do this knowingly and usually in return for free product samples or discount vouchers,” said Siobhan Freegard.
“What’s disturbing here is Facebook have told mums-to-be they are not collecting their information for marketing use – but then have done exactly that.”
Facebook allows advertisers to select groups of its members to target. So woman who updates her profile to announce she is pregnant might be shown advertising for maternity clothing, for instance, following a change to the terms and conditions around “life event” data.
The system has been in place for longer for other data. Facebook members who announce they are engaged often see advertising for wedding photographers.
The firm has always emphasised that it does not actually pass personal data to advertisers and only allows them to target groups of its members.
Facebook has recently embarked on a series of initiatives to increase its revenues folling its stock market flotation in May. It has begun selling real world goods, gone into online gambling, and ramped up its mobile advertising.