My girlfriend was spending the evening on Facebook (evidently far more interesting than talking to me) and she was prompted by Facebook to fill in a survey. This was an official survey which appeared in the top half of page above the newsfeed and not just a link from an advertiser.
So what kind of information do you think Facebook were after?
Well it was incredibly varied - from asking her what state Mitt Romney was a governor of, to what company he used to run, to whether more American soldiers in Afghanistan died under Bush than Obama. Quite why this survey, clearly US focused, was being promoted and aimed at a British citizen I am not sure considering Facebook has access to the users location.
My favourite question of them all had to be the "Obama is a Muslim" true or false question. Really, Facebook, really?
I assume Facebook is collecting this data as it prepares to launch some form of dedicated US Election coverage and perhaps utilise its vast data to either ensure it targets users with politically aligned news or for some interesting statistics.
Facebook could also be quite clearly be building more in depth data which combined with its vast profile data could allow it to develop an advanced polling system and provide some interesting social metrics on the US elections. There is the potential that Facebook is looking at polling data as a potential revenue stream and what with the next US election reputed to involve over a billion dollars in spending it could certainly be a lucrative one.
If Facebook is entering the political insights game it could dramatically change the way elections are fought. Imagine being able to tailor an online advert to precisely the interests of the voter showing them only the parts of your manifesto that line up with their personal interests.
It's entirely conceivable to see a world where this is taken a step further and doorstep canvassers could be armed with a users full profile and their likes, dislikes and interests. The way they pitch a candidate, the manifesto and try and turn the voter could be entirely tailored around that individual. An interesting, but potentially uncomfortable, thought.
It would be interesting to know how Facebook plans to utilise this information, why it's globally targeted and what the uptake has been like.