Just when you thought it was safe to move back into social
media, Facebook will be giving you a little reminder it wants
more than your email address, wedding pictures and political
According to reports from the United States, the company
wants you to share a bit more - things like your credit card
numbers and offline addresses.
The move comes from a new Facebook service called Gifts. It
allows Facebook users - in the US for now - to buy presents
for their friends on the social network.
The New York Times said the gift service was part of an
aggressive moneymaking push aimed at pleasing Facebook's
investors after the company's dismal stock market debut.
Facebook has stepped up its mobile advertising and is
starting to customise the marketing messages it shows to
users based on their web browsing outside Facebook.
To power the Gifts service, Facebook rented a warehouse in
South Dakota and created its own software to track inventory
and shipping. It will not say how much it earns from each
purchase made through Gifts, although merchants that have a
similar arrangement with Amazon.com give it a roughly 15% cut
If it catches on, the service would give Facebook a toehold
in the more than $US200 billion ($NZ243 billion) e-commerce
market. More importantly, it would let the company accumulate
a new stream of valuable personal data and use it to refine
targeted advertisements, its bread and butter. The company
said it did not now use data collected through Gifts for
advertising purposes, but could not rule it out in future.
Facebook already collects credit card information from users
who play social games on its site. But they are a limited
constituency and a wider audience may be persuaded to buy a
gift when Facebook reminds them a friend is expecting a baby
or having a significant birthday.
The Gifts service, which grew out of Facebook's acquisition
of a mobile application called Karma, was introduced in
September and expanded earlier last month on the eve of the
Thanksgiving holiday shopping season.
Facebook's latest move into online commerce steps into
territory dominated by web rivals Amazon and Apple. Both
companies have far more information about shopping behaviour
and stored credit card numbers - important for repeat and
Apple is considered the leader when it comes to credit cards;
it said in June it had 400 million on file. PayPal, a
division of eBay, has 117 million users, all with stored
payment information, and eBay itself has an additional 108
million customers, some of whom have stored payment data.
Mackline has been looking online for family Christmas
presents but decided that because all of the products could
actually be bought in high street shops, browsing was good
but physical purchases would be made at local retailers.
Admittedly, my Kindle stores books bought from Amazon. But
this year, I am buying real books. Reports out last week
pointed to a huge surge in online shopping in New Zealand,
Australia and the US.
Cyber Monday, in the US - which followed Black Friday and
Super Saturday - was huge.
Mackline is no way opposed to online shopping but urges
readers to remember that high street retailers employ your
neighbours, friends and relatives.
And is giving Facebook your credit card and home details the
best use of your time? On Facebook, the gifts you buy for
people will help refine the algorithm. Over time, Facebook
says, the gift recommendations will only get better.
Perhaps one day, Facebook will tell you exactly what to get
your partner for Christmas.