Recently, there has been concern over privacy regarding data on Facebook. Since the recent Facebook IPO, many people have been wondering if the company is facing pressure to find a new source of revenue. The question in many people’s minds is whether it will come from advertising and/or other sources — or whether Facebook will monetize the massive amount of data that the company has on consumers. After all, most people are on Facebook: Forrester’s North American Technographics® Online Benchmark Survey (Part 2), Q3 2012 (US, Canada) shows that almost seven out of 10 US online adults have a Facebook account. What’s more, that survey shows that the typical US online adult with a Facebook account has more than 180 friends on Facebook and spends an average of 7 hours each week on the site.

MIT’s Technology Reviewrecently published an article on the topic, “What Facebook Knows.” The article highlights how massive Facebook’s consumer database is and compares Facebook with a country — with 900 million members, it would be the third-largest globally. People share all kinds of information with Facebook: their demographic details, personal information, interests, and even their contact information.

At this point, it is unclear what, if anything, Facebook will do with this data, but for marketers, the possibilities are endless. For instance, think about the opportunity for market researchers to have a detailed understanding of consumers who “like” their brand (as well as those who “like” their competitors) on Facebook — as well as how to reach them. If Facebook does leverage this data in some way, there is a substantial upside for the market research industry. Companies like SocialQ are already leveraging the depth of consumer intelligence available on Facebook for market research. The company provides a tool to author surveys whereby survey-takers can connect via Facebook and may give permission to access their Facebook profiles. Before even starting on the survey questions, marketers already have access to respondents’ aggregated information, such as demographics, attitudes, and even which brands they “like.” Given that third-party companies are already able to use aggregated Facebook data for market research insights, imagine what Facebook is capable of doing for the market research industry.

Whether Facebook will monetize its data is unknown, but one thing’s for sure: If it does, there is a mountain of data and large number of opportunities that marketers could leverage. What do you think? If Facebook data were available, would your organization use this as a complement to existing market research efforts? Or as the Facebook population becomes more representative of the overall online population, could it replace existing sources of research?