Shafer of SNL Kagan says every user's data is fair game for use at any time by these companies because of the free utility they receive in return. However, he also understands why regulators and consumer privacy advocates are scrutinizing these practices.
"I think we have more of a sentimental attachment to the stuff we give up to Facebook and Google, which makes invasions of privacy seem more outrageous to us," he says.
Direct mail marketers know where people live and while Facebook doesn't necessarily need to know your physical address, it does have pictures of you, your kids and your vacations.
"With a lot of markets, you eventually find your way to what has the least amount of friction and right now to me that seems to be Facebook-style advertising. As annoying as ads are, both Facebook and Twitter at times it's hard to tell whether you're looking at an ad or a post from a friend or a news story. They've been pretty successful at blurring all those lines where it works," says Shafer.
"It lets them give you an ad that you're likely to click on. It's creepy, but when you think about other ways that you're going to pay for your operations that give you this platform, so far it's the least annoying," Shafer adds.
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