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London - Facebook is cashing in on pregnant women by selling access to private information about their due dates and the gender of their unborn babies to advertisers.
Women who pass on the happy news of their pregnancy to loved ones on the site can be bombarded with promotions for baby clothes, nappies, prams, and toys as a result of the policy.
The move has been condemned by parenting experts who warn it could make expectant mothers feel like they are being “cyber-stalked” by big business.
It has also fuelled concerns over Facebook’s willingness to exploit the private information of its one billion users to make a profit.
The US social networking site set up a “Life Events” section on users’ pages in the summer of last year to allow them to tell friends about major news. It suggested women could announce details of their pregnancy, including predicted due date and – based on scans – the gender.
At the time, the company offered reassurance that the details would not be used for commercial gain, saying: “Currently we are not using this life event for ad targeting.”
However, the Daily Mail has learned that it has secretly changed this policy and is selling access to information posted by expectant mothers on the Life Events section to advertisers.
This is potentially lucrative for Facebook, which was floated on Wall Street last year and is looking for ways to cash in on the treasure trove of personal information it holds.
The founder of the Netmums.com website for parents said many people would be alarmed by the development. Siobhan Freegard said: “While many women willingly give away personal details about their pregnancies to marketing firms, they do this knowingly and usually in return for free product samples or discount vouchers.
“What’s disturbing here is Facebook have told mums-to-be they are not collecting their information for marketing use – but then have done exactly that.”
Facebook denies selling personal information directly to advertisers. Rather a company which wants to reach 100 women in London who are having a baby sends an advert to Facebook, which uses its software to target suitable candidates.
Facebook then tells the advertiser what proportion of the target group clicked on the advert or ‘liked’ it. - Daily Mail