Social media privacy? Facebook snoops even when you're not logged in

Social Media Privacy Facebook Purchases

Despite its claim to being aware of social media privacy, Facebook continues to mine user activity for ad data. Now, it’s expanding beyond the boundaries of its site – and even your browser.

Though it claims to respect user privacy and keep its targets protected, Facebook is offering advertisers on its site a new way to narrow its audience through demographics based on specific purchases called “Partner Categories.” Beware of the rather innocuous official announcement which says that a local business could use it to find customers who may be willing to give them their business, according to recent purchases. The feature would accomplish this using third party data collection companies like Acxiom to build predictions based on what you have bought.

Previously, advertisers showed ads to us based on the interests we expressed on Facebook. Now, they have the added ammunition of knowing every product and brand we’ve purchased through our desktop or mobile.

Even if all of our secrets aren’t being revealed to these outside sources, this is still a breach of privacy. And what kind of slippery slope could this be sending us down?

It’s yet another area where anyone with a credit card can be observed without their knowledge. True, it’s hard to imagine a world without omnipresent advertising, and Facebook says this sort of technique has existed for a while. However, bringing it into the realm of online personal networking raises social media privacy concerns.

Advertisers now have even more specific ways to know what we’ve been buying and how that will affect our decisions in the future. It’s a chilling thought to those who would rather keep our shopping history private.

Social media risk management can get overlooked in the face of new developments. But as companies like this find more ways into our lives, it’s important to remember how much of our activity is being watched – and what we can do to protect ourselves. 

John Sileo is a social media privacy expert and keynote speaker on data security, fraud and reputation protection. His clients included the Department of Defense, Pfizer, and Homeland Security. See his recent media appearances on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.