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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Facebook, we told you so 

The Clarion Content has followed Facebook's contortions and claims not to violate its users privacy with bemused distaste for years. Somehow, we have cynically disbelieved their wide-eyed innocence. Perhaps, because, the evidence is so massively against them.

A reminder of what Facebook is really all about... the Benjamins

Yesterday, the Financial Times of London reported that, "Amid growing pressure for the social networking site to prove the value of its advertising, Facebook is gradually wading into new techniques for tracking..." [and mining data]. They noted that Facebook is working with a controversial data gathering company called Datalogix that connects Facebook users' links and clicks to in the store, as well as on-line purchases.

This is the more complex second-level data mining that privacy advocates have long warned about Facebook possessing. Their ability to connect tracked on-line habits with a massive database of off-line behaviors is unprecedented in the personal computing era.

Facebook's dance partner in these dastardly deeds, Datalogix, has customer shopping data from seventy million American households gathered from loyalty card programs they administer at thousands of retailers, grocery and drug stores. Datalogix matches identifying information associated with those frequent shopper cards against emails and personal information that is used to establish Facebook accounts to build its matrix of personal data about users.

Naturally, Facebook's head of Measurement and Insights, Brad Smallwood, assured the Financial Times that the emails and other identifying information of its users are made anonymous by collecting it into groups of people who saw an ad and people who did not.

Of course, why would one assume Facebook would do any less than the right thing.

In another not so shocking development, Facebook users are automatically included in the advertising data mining conducted by Datalogix. They cannot directly opt out through their Facebook account. Instead, they must go to the Datalogix website, for which Facebook has a link posted deep in its help center.

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