Zuckerberg’s Congressional Hearing Risks the Future of Online Advertising

If you didn’t get around to watching the 5-hour segment of Mark Zuckerberg testifying in front of the U.S. Senate, that is understandable. However, this case has everything to do with advertising, so it is not something to ignore. The heart of the conversation between the Facebook CEO and our senators centered around user privacy and how advertisers use that information to target customers. This strategy is the basis of all online advertising, and Facebook is a key provider of this information, alongside Google and Amazon. “I think Facebook is safe,” Zuckerberg said, noting that he and his family use the service.

This use of private information has been going on for years, and it is extremely beneficial to brands looking to target specific customers through online ads. For companies that have a very narrow audience, this can be one of the only effective ways to truly reach their desired demographic. Altogether, it is probably a good idea to stay away from extremely targeted advertising if your customers are very concerned with their personal privacy. Younger audiences are used to giving out their information, so they generally won’t take offense to a non-extreme data breach. As Target knows all too well, excessive targeting can backfire, although the famous pregnancy prediction scandal was likely not real.


That said, many users prefer targeted ads, as it is much more relevant than content that is completely irrelevant to them. Most times, the ads are from brands of which you have previously visited the websites or left something in the cart that you considered purchasing. Therefore, most targeted online advertising is useful and fairly innocent, but people are just afraid of how far it will go; hence, the calling of Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony. Because of all this drama, advertisers must consider the ethics behind their online advertising, now more than ever. As the future becomes more customizable and personal, advertisers have to set their limits. The real question is– how many Facebook users really care that their information is being used. Realistically, most data is just being utilized to sell you t-shirts that say “I’m 63 years old and proud” through a banner ad. Is that really the end of the world?