Jane Lindhe Reporter

Jane is a retail and small business writer with a special interest in emerging companies and entrepreneurs. She covered the financial services industry before moving into general business journalism and has written for The Age and The Australian Financial Review.

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Facebook knows where you shop, even offline

Published 01 March 2013 12:06, Updated 10 April 2013 09:43

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Facebook knows where you shop, even offline

Bloggers say Facebook is opening the privacy floodgates by providing personal information to marketers. Photo: AP

Facebook will now be able to track where its users shop, how much they spend and what they’re buying, even if they’re not online.

Facebook has inked deals with four data collection firms, Datalogix, Acxiom, BlueKai and Epsilon to use their data about customers’ offline purchases to its controversial marketing tool, Custom Audience.

In layman’s terms, Facebook will now be able to target ads based on a user’s offline shopping habits as well as their online presence.

Custom Audiences, a marketing product that was released in September last year, allows advertisers to identify users through their Facebook ID, email or phone number. The new partnerships will allow advertisers to match that information with the data that is collected by retailers through loyalty programs.

By adapting these third party tools, marketers can improve Facebook advertisements to be more customer-specific in two ways: business can integrate information they’ve already received from third parties to create campaigns on Facebook or they can use Facebook’s third parties to create customer-specific programs.

“Business of all sizes will now be able to target categories like ‘soda drinkers’ or ‘people who browsed for a specific make on my website,’ ” Facebook says in a blog on its website.

“For example, an auto dealer may want to customise an offer to people who are likely to be in the market for a new car. To do this many businesses work with third party companies to better understand who might be in the market for a new car.”

The move has sparked privacy concerns, with bloggers suggesting that Facebook is opening the floodgates by providing personal information to marketers. But Facebook denies that any personal information is exchanged between the site, marketers and third parties.

Instead it says that the third parties use “hashes” of customer information to create audience groups. When advertisers reach these groups of people with ads, they will get back the same anonymous aggregate ad reporting that marketers on Facebook currently receive.

“We think carefully about how we can best honour the commitments we’ve made around privacy by giving people control over their information, being transparent about how we use that information and being accountable to our users and regulators,” Facebook says.

In other news, overnight Facebook agreed to buy campaign management software suit Atlas Advertiser Suite from Microsoft for an undisclosed amount.

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