Facebook Links Online with Offline

The Atlantic runs a story (citing the Financial Times) about how Facebook is working with Datalogix to link online advertising on Facebook with offline purchases by consumers:

Advertisers have complained that Facebook doesn’t give them any way to see if ads lead to buying. This new partnership is their response, as it connects real-life buying with ads seen on the site. Specifically, the service links up the 70 million households worth of purchasing information that Datalogix has with these buyers’ Facebook profiles. Using that, they can compare the ads you see with the stuff you buy and tell advertisers whether their ads are working.

That is, using your Facebook E-mail address and connecting that with your store loyalty card e-mail address, Datalogix will be able to say to (for example, CVS): “Yes, X saw an ad for CVS on Facebook and then showed up at your store and bought it.” The Atlantic article hints at the ramifications, especially given the types of stores that we can guess are participants in the program, and also notes that opt-out is a particularly insidious way to begin to tie our online lives to our offline lives.

The Atlantic helpfully provides a link to the Datalogix site to opt-out of the “service” (links included below) and notes that even finding the link on Facebook is like a treasure hunt. While on that site, I noticed that Datalogix also provides a link to opt-out of all Datalogix related tracking. The main “informational” Datalogix link (with the sublinks to opt-out) is here. To log out of the new Facebook program, use this link (it is a cookie based system, which means if you regularly clear your cookies, you may want to “protect” these opt-out cookies so that they’re maintained over time). But instead of using that direct link, try going to this page to see who else is part of Datalogix tracking, and decide who if anyone you really want to allow to continue to do that (they also offer a form-based link to opt-out of all Datalogix advertising, though that link requires you to enter your real name and home address).

The Atlantic story ends with a gentle attack on opt-out schemes, emphasizing that Facebook should at least make the opt-out option easy to find (something it has not done).

There is nothing surprising about this development. Facebook has been at the forefront of trying to eek more information out of its users and then seeking to commodify that information in as quiet a way as possible. In the past these kinds of changes have received significant pushback from users. While user outrage may also arise here, it may also be useful for users to go to the Datalogix site and opt-out of all Datalogix targeted advertising (not just that related to Facebook). If advertising service providers see that joining up with Facebook in one of Facebook’s now infamous submarine “opt-out” changes results not only in bad press about that particular pairing, but also brings them to the attention of users who then opt-out of all of that provider’s services, maybe the providers themselves will drive Facebook to use opt-in rather than opt-out as the presumptive choice when partnerships develop in the future.

Maybe.