Over the years we have heard a lot of warnings about Facebook and privacy, but this issue is a pretty big one. According to the Atlantic Wire, Facebook has joined with a company called Datalogix to connect online advertisements with off-line behavior. Privacy groups are asking the FTC to look into the issue. CNN is reporting on this issue as well. Currently 70 million households are affected.
Datalogix obtains its information from the loyalty cards many of us use to get discounts at various businesses, such as grocery stores and pharmacies. For example, I use a loyalty card with Giant, a food store that provides gas discounts based on a point system. The point system, of course, encourages me to use the loyalty card with everything I buy.
Using your email address and other information from your loyalty card; in combination with other information it is able to glean from social media, Datalogic is able to connect the individual, his loyalty card and his Facebook account. In turn, Facebook plans to provide advertisers with details about how many people are actually buying the products that they advertise on Facebook. According to Atlantic Wire, Facebook plans on anonymizing the information so the marketer will not know who actually made the purchase. But Facebook will know, and it will have a substantial amount of information about you from your loyalty cards. For example, if you are on a prescription medication and you use your loyalty card when you purchase the medication, Facebook will know this. It will also know if you buy grapes, dog food, condoms, ky jelly, you name it.
You can take advantage of the Datalogix privacy page to opt out of the advertising. But Facebook doesn’t make it easy to figure this out. You actually need to go to the privacy portion of the Datalogix site and follow the process. There are three things to opt-out of. Datalogix cookies, Digital Advertising Alliance, All Datalogix and analytical products. (Click on any picture to make it larger.)
The first option under choice is the Datalogix cookies. Remember, you have to opt-out with every browser on every computer. Also, you need to re-opt-out every time you (or your computer automatically) deletes your cookies. Just click on the first link and you will see this message.
You can opt out of Datalogix’s joint advertising ventures as well. This is the second “choice” option. During my own efforts I noted that there were 91 companies from which I could opt-opt, but the site notes 114 companies are involved based on my web browser. So apparently I couldn’t actually opt-out of all of the companies showing me the ads. (I used Firefox.)
To opt-out of the offline Datalogix marketing, or anything that uses your name, email address, address, etc, you need to click on the third opt-out choice. When you do, you will see this form. Remember to complete this form for every email address you have provided for every loyalty card, as well as your Facebook information. Also, complete it for every phone number you have used with these forms or Facebook.
Thoughts on Opting Out
That seems like a lot of opting out to me. Never mind, a lot of re-opting out that I will have to do, since I automatically delete my computer’s cookies, quite frequently, use myriad browsers, and access websites on 3 computers, a phone, and a tablet.
Shouldn’t it be Facebook that handles the opt-out process so my account information is never connected, period? Or the individual companies with the loyalty cards? Or both. Sure, the companies won’t know if I anonymously, purchased something. but Facebook will have a lot of information about me that I never told it, or anyone else that it could have. In fact, when I sign up for a loyalty card, I specifically decline from having my information shared with third party companies. Hopefully, this will protect me. But you never know.
Facebook responded to the criticism, and Atlantic Wire quotes it in its article, “We are working with Datalogix to help advertisers understand how well their Facebook ads are working. We also do this through our partnerships with companies like Nielsen and comScore and through our own advertising tool. We know that people share a lot of information on Facebook, and we have taken great care to make sure that we measure the effectiveness of Facebook ads without compromising the commitments we have made on privacy. We don’t sell people’s personal information, and individual user data is not shared between Facebook, Datalogix or advertisers.”
Hard to even know this is happening
I actually had to dig quite a bit to find out what Facebook is up to. The process:
3. More questions
4. Searched for Datalogix
Once I clicked on the Datalogix link, I was taken to the Datalogix privacy page. The option to opt-out is called “Choice.” Getting to Choice requires scrolling down 2-3 pages of text. Note, it isn’t called opt-out.
By the way Nielsen Online is using your data too. But it is not combining online and offline behavior. Nielsen is also more honest about its opt-out policy. It makes it clear you need to keep opting out if you delete your cookies.
For full details about what Nielsen is doing, and how it is doing it, see here. Its explanation is very clear, and Nielsen is not connecting your specific Facebook account with anything. Actually, Nielsen is collecting what most websites collect these days.
Some time ago, Double Click tried something similar. People, understandably, got very upset, and the project was canceled. I wonder what will happen this time. Regardless, to me, the opt-out process is not permanent enough, nor complete enough. Further, there is no way to opt-out with Facebook itself, and Facebook failed to warn its users ahead of time. To me, this is unacceptable. If companies want to obtain this kind of information, they need an opt-in process. The companies don’t do this because they know most people would never opt-in.
For a separate post that takes you through all opt-out steps, and provides suggestions for offline as well, see here.