Ed Board, Jan. 26

Has social media gone too far with data collection and targeted ads?

More stories from Faith Hultman


Snapchat has recently signed an agreement with Oracle Data Cloud, a data collection agency with which Facebook and Google have long since been affiliated with, which would allow marketing agencies to obtain and use third party data about the offline activity of its users.

Members of The Spectator Editorial Board discussed whether social media has gone too far in its data collection and targeted ads.

The initial reaction from one speaker was in the affirmative. One member said that targeted ads are annoying and inaccurate, and that when users of social media are classified into groups such as “cosmetics shopper” or “consumer tech shopper,” it focuses ads into limited, irritating groups.

Another speaker disagreed. This member said that because social media sites are free, users should be aware of what they are “getting themselves into” and accept that free sites have to be able to sustain an income.

“I completely agree that they [social media sites] need to make money, and that ads, unfortunately, need to be targeted,” one member said, “but also I don’t think they should have it on Snapchat. This is one of the places I used to go to be free of ads.”

Another speaker agreed that while ads need to be targeted, these ads should not have come to Snapchat.

“I only have certain people on Snapchat,” the speaker said, “and it’s probably the place where I’m the sketchiest. Do I really want them knowing what I’m doing on Snapchat and tracking that? No.”

One member said that because Snapchat’s parent company, Snap, is not technically a social media company, Snapchat should not have the same kind of targeted ads as other social media sites.

“Referencing Facebook, and all these other places they’ve been doing this,” the member said, “it doesn’t really compare, because they’re not in the same circle of social media.”

Another member said that Snapchat already has an effective and less annoying form of advertising with geotags and face filters.

“I think that they’re testing the waters here,” the member said, “and I think this is going a bit too far.”

One speaker posed a question to the board.

“Is any of this okay?” the member said. “I think we’ve all gotten used to it, but is it okay in any sort of realm in social media?”

In response, one member said that because sites are free, they have to use advertising in some way.

“In some sites it does work,” the speaker said, “sites that are actually social media. Snapchat is more personal, it’s more of a communication app, so I don’t think it’s really necessary there.”

The board voted 4-3 on whether social media has gone too far with data collection and targeted ads.

The staff editorial reflects the majority opinion of the Editorial Board and is written by the Op/Ed Editor. Columns, cartoons and letters are the opinion of the author/artist and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Spectator as a whole.