Facebook To Use Metadata From Chats To Alter News Feed

Social media monopoly Facebook recently held its developers conference called F8 where it talked about a series of new products it was introducing. One of the major areas of focus for the company is Facebook Messenger which is integrated with the social media firm’s chat service.

Facebook Messenger, previously a stand alone application for mobile users, is going to expand into a whole range of e-commece sites and can track a user’s purchases which Facebook is promoting as a way to “simplify” buying things online and avoiding multiple confirmation messages. Therefore the company will have a user’s social and financial data to monetize with advertising.

But that’s not all, Facebook will also be using the metadata from a user’s chat history toalter their News Feed. How often a user chats with another user and their location will factor in to what is presented on the feed.

How often you chat with someone using Facebook’s Messenger app is a signal the company uses to determine how to place posts in your feed. If you haven’t chatted with someone in a while on Messenger, and then you start chatting again, posts from that person might appear higher in your news feed…

The algorithm Facebook uses to rank posts in people’s news feeds is a complicated one, and it’s always in flux, but the session, titled “How News Feed Works,” shed light on it. If a user shares location data with Facebook, that is also taken into account. For example, posts of friends who are geographically near may get more prominent placement, said Lars Backstrom, news feeds engineering director.

There’s a useful debate here about whether it is worse or better for a private company to have your metadata as opposed to the government. Or in our corporatized world is it roughly the same thing?

There is, of course, no legal problem with Facebook collecting and selling this data as users of the product have, in theory, signed off via agreeing to Facebook’s terms of service. But do people really know how much of their life they are giving away to Facebook?

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