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Retail Technology, Retail technology News

Has Facebook ruined Christmas?

Thursday December 15 2011

More changes fuel the privacy debate, despite retailers embracing is personalisation capabilities

More changes fuel the privacy debate, despite retailers embracing is personalisation capabilities


Industry experts are debating whether Facebook is abandoning the social aspects of Christmas shopping and encouraging a quick sell.


Its latest innovation allows e-commerce sites to offer lists of recommended gifts for not only yourself, but also your Facebook friends.


“There are now quite a lot of e-commerce sites linking to Facebook,” explained Ryan Kaye, client services director at web design and development agency CTI Digital. “They have widgets where, if you are logged into the social network, they display a list of personalised recommendations based upon your likes and discussions on the site.


“There is an American site that I visited recently that offered a Christmas present recommendation for each member of my friends list.”


Weighing up privacy value


Jonathan Bowers, communications director at internet hosting company UKFast, believes the social networking site may have taken data aggregation a step too far and users are not recognising the risks. He said: “On a very human level, online shopping is fantastic for convenience. But – presents already picked out for your friends – where’s the fun in that?”


Bowers continued: “On a serious note, however, we have now become so willing to share our personal information so freely on these sites to allow this to happen, but we rarely consider the risks of having all of this information out there.


“Now that Facebook is openly using this information alongside e-commerce sites, I think it has been a real wake-up call to open people’s eyes to what information they share.”


Passing fad running its course?


Some have argued that the innovation could be a step too far and will have little impact on the festivities as the social networking site loses its appeal. According to competitive intelligence service Hitwise, Facebook usage has levelled off significantly in the UK, with user numbers growingly by only 5 million between July 2010 and 2011, compared to an increase around 20m users the previous year.


Tom Cheesewright, co-founder and chief marketing officer of web marketing software developer CANDDi, explained how the over complication of the site has led to this slowdown. He said: “I am one of the few people that believe they have seen the beginning of the end for Facebook. The site now has a seven-page privacy policy, where Flickr only has a paragraph. It seems that people are tired of it trying to be all things to all people and I am gradually seeing people uploading less and less information onto the site.”


Alternatively Ben Aronson, creative director at social media agency Juice Digital, believes that this type of data aggregation is the natural future for all social networks. He said: “Facebook is already intuitive – if you stop interacting with a brand it will drop out of your feed – but the next step is total data aggregation. We will have personalised search results and sites that offer us what we want, when we want it and are constantly updated.”