Jun 022012

Nick Bergas is a multimedia producer in Iowa City, but to Facebook he’s a live advertisement for personal lubricant.

As the New York Times reports, last Valentines Day Nick saw an Amazon listing for a 55 gallon drum of personal lubricant, ticked the product’s Facebook “Like” button  and added a witty comment to his friends.

Shortly afterwards, Nick’s face started appearing in Facebook sponsored posts for big drums of personal lubricant.

Last year I wrote The Privacy Processors on how Facebook is using our personal data and Nick’s story is a good example of how every like, relationship or comment is potential fodder for Facebook’s marketing platform.

While Nick seems pretty chilled about his Facebook celebrity, for some it might not be so benign.

As we’ve seen for student teachers and others, an innocent or even funny posting may be a problem to those without perspective or a sense of humour.

For Facebook and other social media services, Nick’s story also illustrates a problem – that of “Garbage In, Garbage Out”.

While one of Facebook’s major assets is its huge user database, there’s no guarantee the data is accurate or useful.

Selling Nick’s details to a bulk medical lubricant wholesaler is pretty pointless, but that sort of intelligence is key to the future value of Facebook.

That much of the data gathered is the flaw at the heart of Facebook’s bid data aspirations and Google’s hopes to become an identity engine with Google+.

For us mere individuals, the lesson is we need to be a little bit careful about pressing those “like” buttons; explaining your affinity with bulk lubricants could be a bit tricky with your mum or partner.

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