Police in Belgium are warning citizens not to use Facebook’s new Reactions, to protect their own privacy and ensure they are not targeted by advertisers.
“Facebook never lets an opportunity to gather more information about us pass,” a post on Belgian’s official police website reads. “The [reactions]icons help not only express your feelings, they also help Facebook assess the effectiveness of ads on your profile.”
“One more reason to not rush to click if you want to protect your privacy,” the police statement ended.
In February this year, Facebook had released reaction emojis to users around the world. It added reactions emojis such as laughter, amazement, anger, sadness and love to the ubiquitous ‘like’ button.
“We’ve been listening to people and know that there should be more ways to easily and quickly express how something you see in (the) news feed makes you feel,” wrote Facebook product manager Sammi Krug in an announcement of the release in February. “That’s why today we are launching Reactions, an extension of the Like button, to give you more ways to share your reaction to a post in a quick and easy way.” However, its blog post introducing the feature made no reference of the reactions’ advertising potential.
The Belgian police is claiming that the site is using them as a way of collecting information about people and deciding how best to advertise to them. As such, it has warned people that they should avoid using the buttons if they want to preserve their privacy.
“If it appears that you are in good spirits, Facebook will infer that you are receptive and will be able to sell advertising space by explaining to the advertisers that they are more likely in that way that you will react,” the police said in a statement.
“By limiting the number of icons to six, Facebook is counting on you to express your thoughts more easily so that the algorithms that run in the background are more effective,” the Belgian police post continues. “By mouse clicks you can let them know what makes you happy.
“So that will help Facebook find the perfect location, on your profile, allowing it to display content that will arouse your curiosity but also to choose the time you present it. If it appears that you are in a good mood, it can deduce that you are more receptive and able to sell spaces explaining advertisers that they will have more chance to see you react.”
The company has acknowledged how data collected from user emotions represents key marketing opportunities for businesses, and as benchmarks for brand loyalty.
“We see this as an opportunity for businesses and publishers to better understand how people are responding to their content on Facebook,” it said. At present, it registers any reaction the same way it does a “like”.
This is not the first time that the social media giant has faced resistance from the Belgian Police. Late last year, its privacy authorities stopped Facebook from tracking non-users who visited the site with browser cookies.