New York - Facebook has a new way to make money off your data – and, potentially, to learn more about you than it could before.
If you’re a Facebook user, the company’s machines already know all the things you’ve told Facebook over the years, like your name, age, email address, friends, likes and interests. They also know how you behave on Facebook, including which types of stories you’re likely to click on and which friends’ status updates you like the most.
Now they’re beginning to learn more about how you behave when you aren’t on Facebook. For instance, they have the ability to know whenever you visit a web page that has a “like” button.
On Monday the company announced the next step: a new advertising platform called Atlas. Atlas will allow advertisers to harness Facebook’s data about you to target you on non-Facebook sites and apps. These are not Facebook ads and they won’t be shown on Facebook, but they’ll be drawing on all Facebook’s knowledge of you in order to target you.
If you’ve ever logged into Facebook on your phone, Facebook has linked your phone’s unique identification number to your Facebook account. So when you use another app or a different browser on the same device, Facebook still knows it’s you and Atlas will be able to use that information. Visit a site from your desktop computer using a browser on which you’ve logged into Facebook, and Facebook will know you’re the same person who visited it from your cellphone previously.
Facebook has responded to privacy concerns by clarifying that Atlas won’t actually give third-party advertisers any information about you. It will just use that information to make sure they’re reaching their intended audience.
A Facebook spokesman said the information Atlas gleans about your browsing habits will not be sent back to Facebook. Of course, Facebook has been known to change its mind about such things. – Slate