Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Facebook Begins Allowing Advertisers to Target Non-Users

Juan Carlos Perez, writing for PC World in 2009:

Facebook’s controversial Beacon ad system tracks the activities of all users of its third-party partner sites, including people who have never signed up with Facebook or who have deactivated their accounts, CA (Computer Associates) has found.

Beacon captures detailed data on what users do on the external partner sites and sends it back to Facebook along with users’ IP addresses, Stefan Berteau, senior research engineer at CA’s Threat Research Group, said today in an interview.

Byron Acohido, writing for USA Today in 2011:

Facebook officials are now acknowledging that the social media giant has been able to create a running log of the web pages that each of its 800 million or so members has visited during the previous 90 days. Facebook also keeps close track of where millions more non-members of the social network go on the Web, after they visit a Facebook web page for any reason.

Samuel Gibbs, writing for the Guardian in 2015:

Facebook has admitted that it tracked users who do not have an account with the social network, but says that the tracking only happened because of a bug that is now being fixed. […]

“The researchers did find a bug that may have sent cookies to some people when they weren’t on Facebook. This was not our intention – a fix for this is already under way,” wrote Richard Allan, Facebook’s vice president of policy for Europe in a rebuttal.

Natasha Lomas, writing for *TechCrunch earlier this year:

Yet more privacy problems for Facebook in Europe. Now the French data protection authority, the CNIL, has issued the company with a formal notice to get its house in order and comply with European data protection law or face possible referral to the CNIL’s select committee which could then choose to pursue a sanction against the company.

Facebook has been given three months to make the changes deemed necessary by the CNIL. If it does so to the DPA’s satisfaction it will not face any sanctions, the DPA said yesterday.

Jack Marshall, of the Wall Street Journal, today:

Facebook has set out to power all advertising across the Internet.

To that end, the social network and online advertising company said Thursday it will now help marketers show ads to all users who visit websites and applications in its Audience Network ad network. Previously Facebook only showed ads to members of its social network when they visited those third-party properties.

Some of the reactions to this piece of news are full of outrage and incredulity. But Facebook has been doing this for years; they’re simply monetizing it now. It’s no more invasive than what they’ve been doing since at least 2009, nor is it any creepier than what Google has been doing since 2007. Now there are two enormous companies with unfathomable amounts of personal information tied to individual users. Think anything is going to change?