If you are a Facebook user (and from the numbers there is a good chance that you are), you may soon see ads in your feed that seem eerily related to your real life. Facebook is opening up its user base to outside marketers, giving paying third parties the ability to find you again by the use of personal information. Soon, there may be no escape from that persistent marketer.
Target By Contact Information
The plan is to have the advertiser hand over personal information it has collected outside of Facebook. Facebook will then hash all of that collected information together and match it up against its own hashed collected information, and the resulting matches will be used as targets for that marketer’s ad entries. Information key to the process will be your basic contact information, such as phone numbers and email addresses.
What is the impact?
What does this mean to the average Facebook user when it starts rolling out? Well, consider that you may have a shopper card (or keychain tag) from a major grocery chain. There is a strong chance that you provided contact information when you signed up for the shopper card.
And now that you are using Facebook, they probably have that same email address on file when you joined. Once the match is made between Facebook and the retailer, you could expect to see ads from your favorite grocery store right on Facebook, thanks to the information the retailer has collected.
One area of potential problems is with ads that outlive their marketability. For example, consider that you are shopping around for a new car. In the process, you sign up for all the information that you can find as part of the research. Finally you come to your best choice, and buy that shiny new vehicle. You are now done car shopping.
But Facebook and the marketers may not know that you are finished shopping for a new car ( and may not care). To them, you are an interested party that wanted information, and that makes you a rather hot lead. So if your information matches up, it would seem natural to the marketers that you are a great fit for a high profit item, and the ads are released. Soon you could be given constant reminders that your choice for a new car was not optimal, perhaps every time you log onto Facebook.
At Least Your Data Is Being Protected
The only good news about the process is that your personal information is kept private. Facebook does not release such information to the third party, and only the hashed result of your information is compared against the third party collection. What’s more, the only way that the third party can make a match back to your Facebook account is for you to have given the same information to them at an earlier date. If the information does not match up, then you are not an ad target.
But since most people tend to use the same email address and/or phone number for such purposes, it is not hard to imagine that the majority of such marketers will have the needed information for the match. That is, they don’t need the Facebook data, just the exposure.
Opt Out Option?
While there has not yet been official word, it would stand to reason that there would be an option to opt out from such ad types. But if there is, I would not be surprised to find it rather deep in the profile options, in a place that the the average Facebook user will never find, much less intentionally seek out to turn off.
In the end, the relationship between Facebook and outside marketers goes to prove a point – our online worlds are becoming more interconnected than ever before. In fact, they are starting to merge with our real world lives, keeping a mindful eye (and data record) as we go about our lives, buying groceries, seeing movies, and going on vacation. This information will come back to haunt us as we are hawked the next great deal in our life interests. My only hope is that there’s an option to turn it all off.