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BLOG: Facebook reveals its evil plans

Robert X. Cringely | Sept. 25, 2012
Facebook has announced it will start logging users' searches and track their real world purchases. And so it begins

Remember how everyone said that after Facebook went public, it would one day begin to reveal its evil plans for turning your personal data into money? It's heeeeeerrre.

There are two bits of news that herald the new dawn of Facebook, or as I like to call it, The Social Network That Never Met A Data Point It Didn't Want To Own (TSNTNMADPIDWTO for short).

First: Facebook has begun to archive your search histories. From this day forward, anything you search for on the site will be logged. Toward what end, you might ask? Good question. Facebook isn't saying. But there must be an ad or data mining payoff, or they wouldn't be doing this.

As with Google, you have the option of deleting your searches from your Timeline or making them visible only to you (once you find out where they're kept -- it's not obvious). But you'll have to do it for each search.

Second: The Financial Times reports (via CNN) that Facebook has partnered with a company that will allow it to track which users bought products after seeing ads for them on Facebook.

Facebook has jumped into bed with Datalogix, a company that hoovers up information from loyalty card and online purchases, among other things, then ties them to your Facebook identity using your email address and other personal information.

Who the heck is Datalogix? Per its About page:

As a company, we made it our mission to leverage the power of purchase-based audience targeting to drive measurable online and offline sales.... Our data includes almost every U.S. household and more than $1 trillion in consumer transactions. Nobody is better positioned to deliver the right message to the right audience across channels.

Datalogix in turns partners with data mining giant Acxiom, which collects just about every other piece of data that is available about you. Thus creating the perfect storm of data collection: social networks, purchasing histories, and public records databases.

Datalogix works across a wide swath of industries, but its website is loath to disclose the names of its actual customers. In other words, it respects the privacy of the multi-billion-dollar corporations that sign its checks. You or me? Not so much.

Per the FT report, the companies anonymize the identities before matching up the email address you use on Facebook with the one you gave the local Piggly Wiggly supermarket.

The emails and other identifying information are made anonymous and collected into groups of people who saw an ad and people who did not. Datalogix compiles a report for Facebook and its advertisers to measure which creative approaches and demographic targeting persuade people to buy specific products offline.... So far, the two companies have measured 45 campaigns and in 70 per cent of cases, for every dollar a marketer spent on Facebook it earned an additional $3 in incremental sales....


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