Facebook Is Watching You, Even When You’re Not Clicking On Stuff
In perhaps the least surprising news of the day, Facebook announced Friday yet another way it pays attention to the minutiae of its users’ behavior.
Whenever you linger on content in your News Feed — that main section of the social network where you see things that your friends have posted — Facebook pays attention, even if you’re not “liking,” commenting on or sharing anything.
“Just because someone didn’t like, comment or share a story in their News Feed doesn’t mean it wasn’t meaningful to them,” software engineers Ansha Yu and Sami Tas wrote in a company blog post.
“Based on this finding, we are updating News Feed’s ranking to factor in a new signal—how much time you spend viewing a story in your News Feed,” they continued.
In other words, when you spend time with content in your News Feed, Facebook will interpret that as a good thing — even if you didn’t click on anything.
“Based on the fact that you didn’t scroll straight past this post and it was on the screen for more time than other posts that were in your News Feed, we infer that it was something you found interesting and we may start to surface more posts like that higher up in your News Feed in the future,” Yu and Tas wrote.
Previously, Facebook learned to show you content it thought was relevant based largely on whether you directly interacted with it through the like, comment and share functions.
A spokeswoman for Facebook told The Huffington Post that the amount of time spent looking at content would not be made available to publishers or advertisers, and that it is purely used to determine how content is surfaced on the News Feed.
At first glance, this announcement may seem a bit weird, but it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Facebook already tracks your activity well beyond the confines of the main social network — a fact that has helped land it in hot water in the European Union. And the company has expressed interest in “deep learning” to help it automatically recognize certain traits in its users — if a person looks hammered in a photo they’re trying to post, for example.
In a certain sense, the news could also be viewed as something to be optimistic about. Publishers like The New York Times are ramping up their efforts to put their stories directly on Facebook through its “Instant Articles” platform. The idea that articles could be measured by something beyond page views or ephemeral shares might be appealing to publishers.
Plus, e-book companies for a long time have paid attention to how long you spend with their texts.
Regardless, it does serves as a reminder: Facebook basically knows everything about everything you do on its platform. Enjoy!
This story has been updated to include information from Facebook about how the new feature will be used.