How Facebook ads exploit specific user via ‘nanotargeting’


New Delhi, Oct 16 | As governments aim to break the Big Tech and tighten control over social media platforms regarding data privacy of billions of users, significant research has revealed that Facebook advertising platform can be systematically exploited to deliver ads exclusively to a specific, single user.

Described as “nanotargeting”, the potentially harmful practice might be a very powerful tool for attackers willing to manipulate a specific individual and blackmail him or her on Facebook, according to the paper written by a team of academics and computer scientists from Spain and Austria.

The paper, titled “Unique on Facebook: Formulation and Evidence of (Nano) targeting Individual Users with non-PII Data” — describes a “data-driven model” acheived through 21 Facebook ad campaigns.

The researchers showed they were able to use Facebook’s Ads Manager to target ads in such a way that each ad only reached a single, specific Facebook user.

The privacy of an individual is bounded by the ability of a third party to reveal their identity. Certain data items such as a passport ID, email or a mobile phone number may be used to uniquely identify a person, referred to as Personal Identifiable Information (PII) items.

The non-PII items are the interests that FB assigns to users based on their online and offline activity. Therefore, since a user can be uniquely identified by a set of interests on Facebook, it may be possible to configure a Facebook ad campaign that reaches exclusively a single user.

The results revealed that the 4 rarest interests or 22 random interests from the interests set Facebook assigns to a user make them unique on Facebook with a 90 per cent probability.

Users’ interests represent a very important asset for Facebook since its revenue model is based on delivering relevant ads to users. Many advertisers use the Facebook advertising platform to create ad campaigns to reach users based on their interests.

“To the best of our knowledge, this represents the first study of individuals’ uniqueness at the world population scale. Besides, users’ interests are actionable non-PII items that can be used to define ad campaigns and deliver tailored ads to Facebook users,” wrote the researchers from Madrid’s University Carlos III, the Graz University of Technology in Austria and the Spanish IT company, GTD System & Software Engineering.

It is worth noting that “our work has only revealed the tip of the iceberg regarding how non-PII data can be used for nanotargeting purposes”.

“An advertiser can use other available socio-demographic parameters to configure audiences in the FB Ads Manager such as the home location (country, city, zip code, etc.), workplace, college, number of children, mobile device used (iOS, Android), etc, to rapidly narrow down the audience size to nanotarget a user,” the researchers warned.

The research raises fresh questions about potentially harmful uses of Facebook’s ad targeting tools, especially at a time when the social media platform is facing intense scrutiny across the world regarding user data security and privacy.

Source: IANS

Next Story

Does MBA really help in getting a better job offer ?

Does MBA really help in getting a better job offer ?

Most students pursuing an MBA come with the sole objective of having a decent job offer or a promotion in the existing job soon after completion of the MBA. And most of them take loans to pursue this career dream. According to a recent survey by education portal  74% MBA 2022-24 aspirants said they would opt for education loans.

There are exceptional cases like those seeking master’s degree or may have a family business to take care of or an entrepreneurial venture in mind. But the exception cases are barely 1%. For the rest 99%, a management degree is a ticket to a dream job through campus placements or leap towards career enhancements. Stakes are high as many of them quit their jobs which essentially means loss of 2 years of income, apprehension and uncertainty of the job market. On top of that, the pressure to pay back the education loans. Hence the returns have to be high. There is more than just the management degree. Colleges need to ensure that they offer quality management education which enables them to be prepared for not just the demands of recruiters and for a decent job but also to sustain and achieve, all along their career path.

  • So, what exactly are the B Schools doing to prepare their students for the job market and make them industry ready ?
  •  Are B schools ready to deliver and prepare the future business leaders to cope up with the disrupted market ?  

These are the two key questions every MBA aspirant needs to ask, check and validate before filling the MBA application forms of management institutes. And worth mentioning that these application forms do not come cheap. An MBA aspirant who may have shortlisted 5 B Schools to apply for, may end up spending Rs 10,000.00 to Rs 15,000.00 just buying MBA / PGDM application forms.

While internship and placements data of some management institutes clearly indicates that recruiters today have specific demands. The skill sets looked for are job centric and industry oriented. MBA schools which have adopted new models of delivery and technology, redesigned their courses, built an effective evaluation process and prepared the students to cope with the dynamic business scenario, have done great with campus placements despite the economic slow down.

However, the skill set being looked for by a consulting company like Deloitte or KPMG may be quite different from FMCG or a manufacturing sector. Institutes need to acknowledge this fact and act accordingly.

  • Management institutes should ensure that students are intellectually engaged, self motivated and adapt to changes fast. In one word ‘VUCA ready’.
  • B Schools should encourage students to participate in national and international competitive events, simulations of business scenarios.
  • Institutes should have the right mix of faculty members with industry exposure and pure academics.

The placement records of 2021 across top management institutes indicated the fact that recruitment is happening, skilled talent is in demand and certain management institutions continued to attract recruiters even in the middle of an ongoing crisis.

It is time, all management institutes rise to the occasion, understand market realities and identify areas of improvement at both ends – students and faculty.

After all, the stakes are high at both ends. B Schools taking corrective measures will stay while those which are lagging will end up shutting down.

Author Name : Nirmalya Pal


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here