As if you needed another reason to lock down your Facebook profile, the company's sketchy new partnership with data mining firm Datalogix is geared towards giving advertisers more information on what you're doing—even when you're not online. It's just not enough that they can target ads based on your preferences, now they want to know how those ads are influencing your buying habits in the real world.
A lot of companies have been doubting how effective Facebook ads are, so Facebook asked Datalogix to help them find out how often you're actually going to stores and buying the products you see in their ads. Datalogix claims it has information on "almost every U.S. household and more than $1 trillion in consumer transactions." A lot of this data comes from loyalty programs, which sometimes require quite a few details about yourself to enroll and provide a lot of information about how you spend your money.
Photo by joelogon
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation report, Datalogix starts by handing Facebook a huge list of hashed email addresses and phone numbers for all the people they're tracking. That in itself is terrifying, but it gets worse.
Facebook then takes that list and checks it against all the data it has on its users and puts them into groups based on their online activity. Then, Datalogix determines how many people from each group bought a certain product so that Facebook can see how many ads for that product were served up, giving them an idea of how well the ads are working.
In all fairness, both companies claim that this process does not allow them to match specific users with their purchases, but we all know that doesn't really mean anything. And even if it's true, who wants advertisers knowing how to manipulate them into spending even more money? Luckily, you do get a choice in whether or not you participate in this little project.
Facebook was sneaky about this one. You can opt out of the program, but you can't do it from your Facebook account. The option is hidden on Datalogix's privacy page. To access it, scroll about halfway down until you see the Choice section.
The last link in the paragraph brings up a form you can fill out to opt out of the program.
Datalogix says you'll no longer be included in any lists they share with Facebook within 30 days of submitting the form.
It's also worth noting that most loyalty programs don't even verify the information you give them, so to be sure it can't be associated with you, just fill in fake names and email addresses in the future.
Check out the EFF study for more details on how your data is being collected and used. And while you're at it, you may also want to disable Facebook's Instant Personalization and Social Ads for good measure.