Facebook Is Tracking What You Buy In Stores & Here's How to Opt Out

The always-controversial subject of Facebook and privacy has ceased to provide any sort of shock factor to me, since I think every story has one basic takeaway: if you're really, really concerned about online privacy, for crying out loud DON'T USE FACEBOOK. Still, since most of us DO use Facebook, as long as we haven't cancelled our accounts we may as well stay on top of what the social media giant is plotting, right?

For instance: ad tracking. It's a no-brainer that Facebook is highly aware of what ads you see when you're online, but did you know they're working to be able to track how effective that ad was? In other words, soon Facebook will be able to track your purchasing habits, so they can tell whether or not marketing drove you to actually purchase that pint of Chunky Nutty Butterblast Supreme.

Concerned? Well, here's the one foolproof way to make sure Facebook can't spy on what you're buying.

 

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DON'T USE FACEBOOK.

I know, you were hoping I had some sort of killer global opt-out setting for you, right? As far as I know, all the privacy controls in the world won't protect you from Facebook's increasing need to prove its monetization value to investors and advertisers alike. As Facebook's head of measurement and insights said,

We kept hearing back [from marketers] that we needed to push further and help them do a better job.

Yep. Exactly.

Their latest move is to partner with a data company called Datalogix, which has purchasing data from 70 million American households -- including details of loyalty card accounts from over 1,000 retailers.

You know all those irritating cards you have to use in order to access discounts at grocery stores and drugstores and so on? Basically, Datalogix can match that information with your Facebook email address in order to monitor which products you're buying. If there's a connection between an ad and a purchase, that's a big win for Facebook. Maybe not so much for you and your privacy, though.

The claim is that emails and other identifying information are made anonymous and collected into groups of people who saw an ad and people who did not. Datalogix then creates a report for Facebook and its advertisers, who are able to sit down and dream up better ad campaigns.

Here's what Facebook says about their ad measurement efforts:

As trusted service providers, these companies have been contracted to produce aggregate and anonymous measurement reports to advertisers. No personally identifiable or individual data is shared with advertisers as part of the measurement process. Facebook has also designed the process to generate these reports with user privacy in mind. For example, Facebook identifies groups of people that have been shown ads on Facebook and matches them in a hashed format with the data the measurement companies receive from their retail partners. The measurement partners then analyze their data to produce aggregate and anonymous advertising effectiveness reports for advertisers.

After a LOT of digging, I did find an option for opting out of the Datalogix service. Facebook doesn't allow you to do it from their site, but if you visit Datalogix's privacy page and click here, you can remove yourself from that particular measurement effort.

The interesting thing about all this is that the FTC recently said that Facebook must obtain consumers’ consent before sharing their information beyond established privacy settings. I'm not sure how this works with this new ad measurement effort, but I sure don't remember clicking a "yes, I approve this tracking service" button -- do you?

What do you think about the Datalogix/Facebook partnership? Are you going to opt out on Datalogix's website?

Image via EdYourdon/Flickr

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