“Now You Can See and Control the Data That Apps and Websites Share With Facebook,” Facebook trumpeted boldly. But only if you live in Spain, South Korea, or Ireland. Facebook is rolling out its new privacy tools slowly. They will hit the U.S., though, after they’ve been tested in smaller countries.
The tool is called “Off-Facebook Activity,” and it allows you to see what apps and websites are tracking your behavior when you’re not on Facebook.
What you do on Facebook
Facebook notices your behavior on Facebook and uses that information, as it uses your pictures and posts and data, as it sees fit. You gave Facebook this permission.
You always like all your friends’ baby pictures? Facebook will show you more baby pictures. You slow down and read political ads? Facebook will show you more political ads.
Facebook considers this helpful behavior. You get to see more of the stuff you like, and less of things you’re not interested in. If you don’t like the things Facebook shows you, change your behavior at Facebook and the things you see will also change.
But judging from the things people post on Facebook, many Facebook users don’t understand this. Chances are, they also don’t understand how Facebook uses their Off-Facebook Activity.
Do you have a Facebook pixel on your website? If so, you are tracking the behavior of your website visitors when they follow a Facebook ad link to your website. They may not be on Facebook, but Facebook is still tracking them. Their decision to go to your website from Facebook gives you permission to do this.
You might be tracking people with an app, too. You could know when a customer you share with Facebook is near your physical store, because you track them with an app on their phone.
Now, Facebook is providing a tool that will let Facebook users check and see who is tracking them.
They will also be able to disconnect the tracking from their profile. The new tool doesn’t allow people to stop the tracking. But it does make it anonymous.
How will this affect your Facebook ads?
Facebook can still get information about how women 25-34 are responding to an ad campaign, and you can still direct your ads toward dog lovers in Nebraska.
Plus, most people won’t use the new tool, even when it becomes available to them. Most people do not take control of their privacy at Facebook. Most have no idea how to do so. You can tell this from the frequent rashes of posts saying things like, “Facebook, you don’t have my permission to use my pictures.”
Facebook is fairly confident that the new tool will not affect the performance of their ads. We think they’re right.
If you target your ads and boosted posts well enough, the people who see them should want to see them. “Ooh, cool!” they’ll think. “I’ve been needing some of that.”
The case in which it might make a difference is with people who are especially concerned about privacy. They might notice that you — with their permission, remember — are tracking information about them and decide that they don’t want to do business with you.
If that’s likely to be true for your audience, it’s time to think about whether or not it will still be worth it to track individuals when they can find out about it easily.
If not, it’s time to think about a new strategy.