It’s the end of an era for Facebook: the site, originally set up as a way for bored college bros to rate the relative hotness of their peers, is now ditching the “interested in” section from users’ profiles, effective December 1. The change marks a close to the social media giant’s unofficial second role in the realm of, if not love, then at least anonymously leching on your cousin’s hot friend you met at a party that one time (you know the one).
It’s not the only profile details facing the axe. “As part of our efforts to make Facebook easier to navigate and use, we’re removing a handful of profile fields: Interested In, Religious Views, Political Views, and Address,” Meta spokesperson Emil Vazquez said in a statement regarding the change.
“We’re sending notifications to people who have these fields filled out, letting them know these fields will be removed,” he explained. “This change doesn’t affect anyone’s ability to share this information about themselves elsewhere on Facebook.”
The move comes as Facebook, along with parent company Meta, seeks to streamline operations in more ways than one. As the company predicts lackluster profits for the upcoming business quarter, it’s also recently announced an unprecedented 11,000 layoffs – nearly 13 percent of the company’s workforce.
So it may seem strange that Meta is choosing now to nix what are genuinely some of the unique selling points of its most firmly-established platform. After all, few if any other social media platforms go into such detail in their users’ bios, with most offering just a line or two of information. But there are a couple of reasons why the removal of such details makes sense.
First of all, it’s not 2006 anymore: we don’t spend hours getting our MySpace pages or, indeed, our Facebook profiles, to be a perfect reflection of our inner psyche. Today, after years of privacy violations on a scale few of us could have predicted, let alone expected, we’re more likely to put fake or no information into those boxes than genuine answers.
And there’s good reason for that: back in 2019, it was revealed that Facebook was allowing advertisers to discriminate against certain users based on the information given in their profiles, such as race and sexual orientation. When Facebook put a stop to that by removing these sensitive ad targeting categories, advertisers used proxies instead, accessing users’ web history, physical location, and drawing on cues such as an interest in “Jewish holidays” rather than a religion listed as Jewish, for example.
Removing these personal details from users’ profiles may mark a significant change in the company’s close-to-two decades of operation, then, but it also makes sense from a business perspective: these snippets are no longer seen as neat little disclosures for your buddies, but as ways for advertisers to get increasingly personal information to exploit for profit without our consent.
Let’s face it: if Facebook wants to stay relevant in an age when its users are savvier than ever about how their information is used, what easier way is there to stop advertisers using this information than to remove it completely?