Facebook’s Christmas Gift: A tool to stalk you all
Advanced matching feature shares even more user data
On December 5th, Facebook extended the “advanced matching” feature on their website, expanding its scope by allowing its tracking pixel to transmit even more user data from a vast range of third party websites.
In a twitter thread, users reported that data they had entered on AirBnB via a desktop computer was used to serve them ads when they later used Facebook on a smartphone. This happened despite them being logged in at different times, on different devices. More so, the user who posted the initial tweet had not even clicked ok on the cookie-consent notification that is mandatory in the European Union.
More and more users are wondering why they see ads for something they have looked at or searched for on devices that were not connected. Facebook’s feature, called “advanced matching”, is a tracking technology on steroids that is disrespecting users’ privacy with the sole aim of creating more ad revenue for the social network.
On it’s own site, the feature is described in detail: “Automatic advanced matching will tell your pixel to look for recognizable form fields and other sources on your website that contain information such as first name, last name and email address. The Facebook pixel receives that information along with the event, or action, that took place.”
This explains how the AirBnB user got identified with the help of manual and automatic advanced matching when he went back to Facebook and why he got shown an ad specifically for the accommodation he had looked up.
Of course, this does and will happen with other sites, not just AirBnB. Facebook could know when you looked up information about a specific illness and then employers could exclude you from seeing a job ad. Or the network could start spamming you with baby equipment after you entered the dates for your planned baby shower.
What some might deem useful is a privacy nightmare to others.
Luckily, users can protect themselves against such intrusive practices: By using an adblocker, such as Adblock Plus, all annoying ads and the data-tracking they come with are blocked. With EasyPrivacy List activated, even advanced schemes like Facebook’s “advanced matching” can be stopped.