BUSINESS

Facebook Knows When Teens Feel 'Worthless,' Swears It Doesn't Use That To Sell Ads

02/05/2017 4:38 AM IST

Facebook sees all ― including teenagers’ feelings of inadequacy.

That’s according to a confidential report a Facebook employee leaked to The Australian about a project at Facebook Australia that identifies insecure young people and strategizes how advertisers might target them.

According to the Australian, the report says Facebook can pinpoint “moments when young people need a confidence boost” or feel “worthless,” as well as employ image-recognition software to glean uncomfortable insights about users from the photos they post on Facebook and Instagram, which Facebook owns.

The Australian says Facebook is drawing its insights from a database of 6.4 million young people in Australia and New Zealand, ranging from high school students to young workers with an average age of 26.

It’s unclear if Facebook has conducted similar research elsewhere. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment from HuffPost.

In a statement on Monday, Facebook acknowledged the research ― but hastened to clarify that while it did share the report with an unidentified advertiser, it doesn’t give marketers tools “to target people based on their emotional state.”

“The analysis done by an Australian researcher was intended to help marketers understand how people express themselves on Facebook,” the company said. “It was never used to target ads and was based on data that was anonymous and aggregated.”

It also pledged to review the report, which the company said did not follow its established process, according to The Australian.

Facebook’s highly targeted ads are a boon to marketers, but are sometimes so effective at narrowing their audience that they’re potentially illegal.

Last year, Facebook found itself in hot water after a ProPublica investigation revealed it let advertisers target ― or exclude ― certain “ethnic affinities,” a tool that could be used to block African-American users from seeing certain housing ads, for instance.

The resulting outcry prompted Facebook to redesign its ad-targeting tools and specifically ban marketers from using racial categories to advertise housing, employment and credit.

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