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New tool to show advertising revenue generated by each Facebook user


Researchers at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M), as part of a European research project, have developed a new software tool which allows Facebook users to visualize the advertising revenue they generate while browsing in this online social network.

Facebook y publicidad

This free tool, known as “FDVT” (Facebook Data Valuation Tool), was developed by engineers in UC3M’s Telematics department, and is part of a European Project called TYPES (Towards transparencY and Privacy in the onlinE advertising business), which is, in turn, part of the Horizon 2020 program. In addition, the tool is partially funded  by the Data Transparency Lab. This initiative, founded by MIT, Telefónica and Mozilla, promotes Internet transparency, with the goal of raising awareness among internauts of the importance of protecting their digital privacy.

The application, which was recently launched and is currently available for Facebook and Google Chrome  browser helps to visualize, in real time, the advertising revenue being generated by a user while he/she is navigating on the social network. In order to use it, the user simply needs to download the application and enter some basic identity data (age, gender, relationship status, interests and country, etc.), so that the tool can identify the profile’s economic value on the advertising market, a volatile sector subject to widely varying supply and demand.

“Evidently, each of us has a different market price according to our profile, so the tool will give you an estimate of what you are generating,” say brothers Ángel and Rubén Cuevas, UC3M professors and the developers of this innovation, along with doctoral student José González. “When you connect to Facebook and receive an ad, what we do is obtaining its  associated value, the price that those advertisers pay for displaying those ads or each ‘click’ that you make on one of those ads,” they explain. “The average cost of a user in Spain comes out to be roughly half of the cost of a user in the US, but it’s important to understand that the value changes over time,” they add.

Facebook continually earns money from advertising, “even when the internaut who is on the platform doesn’t click on the ads,” they explain.  “The advertising sector increasingly “profiles down to the last detail” their potential customers, who they direct personalized ads to based on their personal characteristics, in order to improve the return of their investment,” assures Ángel Cuevas. There must be "a balance" between this personalization of advertising (which can be expressly agreed to by users in order to improve their experience) and the guarantee of maintaining basic rights, he adds.

It is important that the companies that manage advertising be transparent in how they handle other people’s data, these researchers insist. “We don’t want to demonize Facebook, Google, or any other platform for generating income through advertising, a sector that is undoubtedly generating economic growth and employment,” they affirm. What they do insist on is that companies exploiting personal information must act with transparency when they report what they do with the data they get from third parties.  

Companies such as Telefónica R&D, EURECAT, la Asociación de Usuarios de Internet (AUI- The Association of Internet Users) and IAB Europe  are part of the international consortium behind the European Project called TYPES, with Spanish participation being around 50 percent. Companies from Germany, Greece and Israel also participate in this project, which is funded through the European Union framework research program Horizon 2020 (reference number 653449).

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