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Making sense of algorithmic profiling: user perceptions on Facebook


Büchi, Moritz; Fosch-Villaronga, Eduard; Lutz, Christoph; Tamò-Larrieux, Aurelia; Velidi, Shruthi (2023). Making sense of algorithmic profiling: user perceptions on Facebook. Information, communication and society, 26(4):809-825.

Abstract

Algorithmic profiling has become increasingly prevalent in many social fields and practices, including finance, marketing, law, cultural consumption and production, and social engagement. Although researchers have begun to investigate algorithmic profiling from various perspectives, socio-technical studies of algorithmic profiling that consider users’ everyday perceptions are still scarce. In this article, we expand upon existing user-centered research and focus on people’s awareness and imaginaries of algorithmic profiling, specifically in the context of social media and targeted advertising. We conducted an online survey geared toward understanding how Facebook users react to and make sense of algorithmic profiling when it is made visible. The methodology relied on qualitative accounts as well as quantitative data from 292 Facebook users in the United States and their reactions to their algorithmically inferred ‘Your Interests’ and ‘Your Categories’ sections on Facebook. The results illustrate a broad set of reactions and rationales to Facebook’s (public-facing) algorithmic profiling, ranging from shock and surprise, to accounts of how superficial – and in some cases, inaccurate – the profiles were. Taken together with the increasing reliance on Facebook as critical social infrastructure, our study highlights a sense of algorithmic disillusionment requiring further research.

Abstract

Algorithmic profiling has become increasingly prevalent in many social fields and practices, including finance, marketing, law, cultural consumption and production, and social engagement. Although researchers have begun to investigate algorithmic profiling from various perspectives, socio-technical studies of algorithmic profiling that consider users’ everyday perceptions are still scarce. In this article, we expand upon existing user-centered research and focus on people’s awareness and imaginaries of algorithmic profiling, specifically in the context of social media and targeted advertising. We conducted an online survey geared toward understanding how Facebook users react to and make sense of algorithmic profiling when it is made visible. The methodology relied on qualitative accounts as well as quantitative data from 292 Facebook users in the United States and their reactions to their algorithmically inferred ‘Your Interests’ and ‘Your Categories’ sections on Facebook. The results illustrate a broad set of reactions and rationales to Facebook’s (public-facing) algorithmic profiling, ranging from shock and surprise, to accounts of how superficial – and in some cases, inaccurate – the profiles were. Taken together with the increasing reliance on Facebook as critical social infrastructure, our study highlights a sense of algorithmic disillusionment requiring further research.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Communication and Media Research
Dewey Decimal Classification:070 News media, journalism & publishing
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Communication
Social Sciences & Humanities > Library and Information Sciences
Uncontrolled Keywords:corporate profiling, surveillance, data protection, privacy, algorithms, digital footprints
Language:English
Date:12 March 2023
Deposited On:20 Dec 2021 11:03
Last Modified:16 Jun 2024 03:46
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:1369-118X
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2021.1989011
  • Content: Published Version
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)