Earlier today Facebook announced a plethora of upgrades to their mobile platforms, both instant and upcoming. Android users can now use Facebook Places and Facebook Groups by upgrading their mobile app from the Android Marketplace. In the near future, mobile users will be able to utilize a single sign on to avoid the painful step of logging in multiple times to interact with friends on multitudes of social-centric third-party sites.
The most intriguing announcement, however, was the introduction of Facebook Deals – a “way to discover and redeem deals when you check into places.” During today’s press conference, Facebook claimed they have more location based users than any other location based service, such as Gowalla, Whrrl, Yelp – and Foursquare. Facebook also compiles and, as we discovered with the new friendship pages, has the ability to dissect our user data in countless ways.
What does this mean for active users of Facebook who utilize Facebook’s geolocation service to interact with businesses for the potential of specials, coupons, and customer privileges? Facebook explained they were not getting paid directly for deals by businesses during the press conference, and instead profiting (for now) via advertising relationships. Accusations of intrusions upon users’ privacy is nothing new for Facebook. Businesses will undoubtedly have access to some crosscut of their customers’ data – especially data that is already public, but – like the friendship pages are – assembled in a tighter package for marketing purposes. While Facebook said they were introducing deals solely for the benefit of users, this is in terms of both consumers and businesses. If Facebook desires to make a profit from “Deals” (and we know everything Mark Zuckerberg does is to make a profit,) then Facebook has the best interests of these businesses in mind; not the customers.
Getting a “deal” on a pair of jeans or a vacation in Vegas is undoubtedly appealing, especially to the average demographic of Facebook users. But are you really getting a great discount for just being a consumer – or for willingly trading your privacy and personal information to the brand?