The patented algorithm could be a potentially powerful marketing tool for advertisers
Ever since Donald Trump won the election a little over a year ago, Facebook and other social media companies have come under the microscope. They’ve been vilified as having an undue influence over people, conditioning opinion, and as a vessel that disseminates fake news.
It is a set of secretive and closely-guarded algorithms that determine what you see on your wall – or rather what Facebook wants you to see on your wall. After much hand-wringing, the tech giant has started moving to tweak these algorithms. Last month it announced that it would show fewer news articles and marketing content. That decision to regulate the commercial reach of its advertisers meant that days after the announcement, Facebook’s stock dropped 4.5 per cent.
These algorithms, while determining what you see, also work to capture, store and interpret billions of pieces of content every day. Now, there’s a new Facebook new algorithm that can culls information from your profile to determine your socioeconomic status.
While you’d imagine that this new algorithm would record data of you seated in supercars, selfies from that foreign trips, check-ins at five-star restaurants and other humblebrags you posted to indicate how far up the pecking order you are, there’s a slightly more sophisticated method of a “decision tree” that Zuckerberg’s team is using to determine your socioeconomic status. That involves determining your age, how many inter-connected devices you use to log into Facebook, your education, your travel history and whether you own a house and a car.
It assimilates this data and places you in a socioeconomic bracket. It can then leverage that and possibly feed it to third-party groups like advertisers who would be able to pitch more directed and specific ads suited to specific demographics. For example, a millennial struggling to pay his college tuition might be seeing an ad for a discounted fast-food joint, while a 40-something senior manager in an IT company might log onto Facebook and find an advertisement for a superbike that will hopefully scratch the itch of his midlife crisis staring right back at him.
Facebook reportedly filed a patent for this algorithm as far back as 2016, though the existence of this algorithm only recently come into the public domain. We aren’t sure if this algorithm will, or already has, been pressed into service. But it might be wise to think twice about what and how much you’d want Zuckerberg’s team to know about your sweet life before you post a #richkidsoffacebook post.