Facebook to Monitor User Activity Outside its Site
In the past, Facebook kept close tabs on what its users posted to their profiles in an effort to bring forth more relevant advertisements. But the social network only monitored user activity on the Facebook website itself, including the pages they liked and the links they clicked on.
Facebook to Monitor Off-Site User Activity
Now, that's about to change. Facebook has announced that it will soon begin collecting data on off-site user activity, meaning that the social network will monitor the websites and apps you use when you're away from Facebook. In other words: if you frequently visit websites for electronics (such as BestBuy.com or Gamestop.com), you can expect to see advertisements for tech retailers the next time you visit Facebook.
It should be noted that Google has been using similar technology to track web users using their browsers since 2009. Google uses the technology to create what it calls "interest-based" advertisements on websites you visit regularly. (Source: cbc.ca)
Unsurprisingly, Facebook's change in policy has upset privacy protection agencies. "This is what Facebook does," noted Jeff Chester, and executive director at the Center for Digital Democracy. "Facebook is going to use multiple ways to track their users and sell them to their advertisers." (Source: mercurynews.com)
Web Browser 'Do Not Track' Feature Will Be Ignored
There's also outrage that Facebook will collect information about users, even if the "Do Not Track" feature found in most popular Internet browsers has been enabled. And, while it is possible to opt out of Facebook's new program for targeted advertisements, the process is awkward; those who want to opt out are instead directed off Facebook to the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) website.
The good news is that Facebook members can opt out of many ad networks when they reach the DAA site; that said, it's likely that those who are visiting the page will be confused as to why they were redirected to the DAA website in the first place. It should also be noted that the opt-out feature is likely cookie-based, meaning that the changes won't be permanent if you frequently clear your browser cookies, or if the cookie expires after a period of time.
Facebook Defends Policy Change
Facebook hasn't responded to those concerns, but it has offered a unique spin on the policy change: in a post on its website, Facebook suggested the adjustment was an improvement because it would allow users to see more relevant advertisements. In essence, Facebook thinks users will approve of the change because it will allow them to find products that suit their tastes, rather than seeing non-relevant ads.
Experts suggest that the changes aren't about users at all, and are instead about the social network's desire to compete with Google for advertising revenue. (Source: huffingtonpost.com)
What's Your Opinion?
What do you think of Facebook's policy to track off-site user activity? Have you attempted to opt out of Facebook's new targeted ads program? If so, what was your experience? Does it make any difference to you that Google has been employing similar technology to track user activity for the last 5 years? Lastly: when it comes to online advertising, would you rather see non-targeted ads or tailored advertisements based on websites you've visited previously?
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