As Facebook gears up to go public soon, it finds itself sandwiched between two contradictory pulls: a desire to turn its vast and varied pool of consumer data into profit, and a compulsion to heed calls by regulators to employ data-protection techniques.
In effect, Facebook’s greatest achievement is also the source of its greatest challenge.
“Facebook already has more data than they are leveraging,” said Rebecca Lieb, an analyst who studies online advertising for the Altimeter Group, a research firm. “There are so many infinite ways to slice and dice the data Facebook currently has that it’s rather daunting.”
A social network Goliath, it has 845 million members, of which 425 million have mobile devices.
These two groups, taken together, have uploaded roughly 140 billion (and counting) digital photos that’ll be stored in a hardware bin in a desolate location. But slicing and dicing the data for the purposes of serving up advertisements is a tricky affair.