Facebook supports mass consumption

America has become the nation of mass consumption. There are few places other than open nature where you are not tempted to buy and consume. Technology has only increased this problem with seemingly necessary applications sold to make our lives easier. I talk to people who are doing everything they can to stay away and remain immune to this, however, it’s getting more difficult to separate ourselves they say.

In late February 2013, Facebook announced partnerships with four companies that collect lucrative behavioral data, from store loyalty card transactions and customer e-mail lists to divorce and Web browsing records. Public records are a vast treasure trove of information that is analyzed to target you for purchases.

They include Acxiom, which aggregates data from a variety of sources, including financial services companies, court records and federal government documents; Datalogix, which claims to have a database on the spending habits of more than 100 million Americans in categories like fine jewelry, cough medicine and college tuition; and Epsilon, which also collects transaction data from retailers.

Acxiom and Datalogix are among nine companies that the Federal Trade Commission is investigating to see how they collect and use consumer data.

Facebook’s fourth partner is BlueKai, based in Cupertino, Calif., which creates tracking cookies for brands to monitor customers who visit their Web sites. That data can be used to show an advertisement when those users log on to Facebook.  “Our goal is to improve the relevance of ads people see on Facebook and the efficacy of marketing campaigns,” Gokul Rajaram, product director for ads at Facebook, said in a recent interview.

In announcing the partnerships, Facebook said it would allow, for example, a carmaker to customize an advertisement to users interested in a new car. The push to refine targeted advertising reflects the company’s need to increase its revenue. Its shares are worth far less than its ambitious initial public offering price of $38 a share last May, and Wall Street wants to see it take concrete steps to prove to advertisers that it can show the right promotions to the right users and turn them into customers.

The partnerships are part of a continuum of efforts by Facebook to hone targeted advertising. Last fall, it invited potential advertisers to provide the e-mail addresses of their customers; Facebook then found those customers among its users and showed them ads on behalf of the brands.

Invited to share email address! Seriously?

JackThreads, a members-only online men’s retailer, tried this tactic recently. Of the two million customer e-mails it had on file, Facebook found more than two-thirds of them on the social network, aided in part by the fact that JackThreads allows members to sign in using Facebook login credentials. Facebook then showed those customers ads for the items they had once eyed on the JackThreads site. The nudge seemed to get people to open up their pocketbooks. Sales increased 26 percent at JackThreads, according to AdParlor, an agency that buys the company’s advertisements on Facebook.

Money in hand

Targeted advertising bears important implications for consumers. It could mean seeing advertisements based not just on what they “like” on Facebook, but on what they eat for breakfast, whether they buy khakis or jeans and whether they are more likely to give their wives roses or tulips on their wedding anniversary. It means that even things people don’t reveal on Facebook may be discovered from their online and offline proclivities.

Facebook says that in devising targeted ads, no identifying information about users is shared with advertisers. REALLY? Seems to me that what we just read suggests that everything they do is open to be exploited! E-mail addresses and Facebook user names are encrypted and then matched. Users can opt out of seeing specific brand advertisements on their page, but we all know those settings change frequently without notice. In order to completely opt out of receiving any targeted messages you must visiting each third-party data partner’s Web site which in and of itself is a very daunting task.

Bottom line, as you consume in America, you will tempted to increase your consumption which keeps retailers happy. Anything you post or provide to any application, will be shared whether you like it, give consent or not.

John Callahan is committed to teaching people how to mitigate debt and minimize unnecessary purchases. He also teaches people how to control the sale when purchasing high ticket items.


Foreclosures finally dropping

Foreclosures are finally dropping

The number of homes lost to foreclosure is closing in on levels not seen since before the housing meltdown. CNN Money recently indicated that Foreclosure filings — including notices of default, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — during the first quarter fell 23% from a year earlier, the lowest level since the second quarter of 2007.


Last month, banks repossessed just over 43,000 homes. In September 2010, repossessions topped 100,000 a month. For the past couple of years, foreclosures have been on the decline as homeowners seek alternatives like short sales, in which they sell their home for less than what they owe and the bank agrees to forgive the difference. The deals are preferred by the banks over foreclosures and have less of a negative impact on a consumer’s credit score. But now even the need to turn to short sales is waning.


Government initiatives, like the Home Affordable Modification Program and Home Affordable Refinance Program, have helped millions of borrowers avoid foreclosure. And last spring, under a $25 billion settlement deal with state and federal officials, the nation’s largest mortgage lenders agreed to help struggling borrowers by lowering their mortgage rates, reducing their principal and other fixes. Here at 360 Group, we’ve seen little in the way expedited actions. Instead we have seen an increase in the Change of Servicers, which enables the banks to stall for more time before ruling on a modification. Often they change servicer’s to get people to just give up because the entire process of modification or short sale has to start all over with the new servicer.


A larger percentage of the nation’s foreclosure activity is occurring in areas suffering from severe economic problems, such as “Rust Belt” cities like Rockford, Ill. and Chicago, not in the recently-developed, mid-to-upper class neighborhoods of California. Further, many of the people who lose their homes now are dealing with a layoff or personal issue, such as a divorce, illness or death in the family. These people with legitimate hardships are the ones that should be helped.


There are some states that are still struggling with a backlog of foreclosures like Florida, Illinois and Georgia, all states where courts oversee the foreclosure process. Florida had more than twice as many bank repossessions as any other state in March — nearly 7,600. Illinois, with more than 3,500, was second and Georgia, with 3,350, was third.

While the foreclosures and short sales appear to be in decline there are still many people who need help. It’s important for those who are in distress to speak to someone before it’s too late.