Tsk, tsk, tsk, Facebook, you got to make some name for yourselves man with your New Year’s resolutions. After being subjected to the infamous fake news scandal which was the highlight after the presidential elections which even led up to a point where Germany is considering fining them $522,000 per fake news article, and what more, this whole thing even nearly started a nuclear war between Israel and Pakistan. Now Facebook data mining for your information on your offline life just for the sake to make their ads target better, is certainly I must say, a great way to add fuel to the fire (like it’s already not bad enough).



Facebook Data Mining




Here’s where they’ve crossed the line

As of the third quarter of 2016, Facebook had 1.79 billion monthly active users and it is no surprise (for a long time) that the social network gathers a large amount of data from you, your friends and your family, you name it, even your dog who uses Facebook.


Facebook Data Mining
That moment when you find out a dog gets more likes than you’ll ever get in a lifetime


Offline information such as your actions, likes and interest, etc. are just somewhere around 1% of the large amount of information that Facebook gathers.

According to a report from ProPublica, the world’s largest social network knows far more about its users, like you, than just what you do online.

And how do they get information about you that they can’t get?

Simple, they buy it.




They know you, more than you know yourself


[Tweet “They know you, more than you know yourself”]

It’s true. These third party data brokers companies collect information from public records, online activity, and purchase history and re-sell it to other companies for marketing purposes.

The more companies know more about you, the more targeted (and successful) they can make their advertisements, which is why Facebook data mining to collect as much information as they can to increase their revenues.

Propublica found that some of the information that is being sold and purchased by Facebook includes your personal income, where you eat, and how many credit cards you keep.




A Facebook ID unique for everyone

What more, all this data comes separate from the unique identifiers that Facebook generates and assigns for each and every one of its users based on your interests and online behavior.

If you want to know more about these Facebook ID unique, check out Project Nayuki: Understanding Facebook IDs


Want to see how it works?

You can enter your FB URL here, and it’ll show your own Facebook personal numeric ID.



Mine is 114696805612. Oh wait, am I allowed to share that?




Interest-ing Investigation

Now back to the main topic, ProPublica did carry out a separate investigation in which they went and asked the users to report categories of interest Facebook assigned to them. (say for example: if you ‘like’ donuts, then that would be a category of interest of yours which will then influence what ads are targeted at you).

This investigation generated more than  52,000 attributes.


You can find your own categories of interest that Facebook assigned to you too!

Just follow the steps here.




How do I opt out of this shit?

Even if you still find Facebook data mining for information somewhat not respecting the privacy policy, you should note that the process to stop them from doing that just ain’t a simple 1,2,3…DONE kinda easy solution.

If you still want to go through with it, then you should follow this guide (a useless guide to be honest) which Facebook themselves have written on their page.


They won’t let you go

One might question, why is the process of giving the freedom to decide whether you want to be on the list or not so difficult?

Well if you were to think that it’s just Facebook’s a difficult process, then you haven’t seen anything yet.



In the case of the Oracle-owned Datalogix, if you were to be on their list, and if you decided you want off, then you would have to send a written request (I know, talk about how so suddenly technology turns back a milestone) and a copy of a government-issued Identification in the mail to Oracle’s chief privacy officer.



Acxiom is one of the largest data brokering companies in the world and when it comes to the degree of difficulty of escaping,  it is pretty similar in terms of Datalogix. For Acxiom, however, they require you to provide the last four digits of your social security number to check what information the company has collected about you.




What was Facebook’s remarks on all this?

The data that was bought by Facebook from other brokers to round out user profile, however to an extent, is not disclosed by Facebook beyond a note that it gets information

“From a few different sources”


According to ProPublica, those “few different sources” comes from commercial data brokers who have access to information about people that isn’t linked directly to online behavior.

Facebook however is not disclosing those sources because the information isn’t collected by Facebook and is publicly available.

“Our approach to controls for third-party categories is somewhat different than our approach for Facebook-specific categories,”


Steve Satterfield, a Facebook manager of privacy and public policy, told ProPublica.

“This is because the data providers we work with generally make their categories available across many different ad platforms, not just on Facebook.”


Another spokesperson for Facebook offered the following response,

“ProPublica’s piece neglects to mention the ways we provide transparency and control around the ads experience on Facebook and off.  A person can click on the upper right corner of any ad on Facebook to learn why they’re seeing the ad.  When they’re seeing an ad because they’re in a data provider’s audience, we tell them that and link to the data provider’s opt-out,” the spokesperson said.

“Furthermore, we think when people choose not to see ads based on certain information, they don’t want to see those ads anywhere. When a person makes changes to her Ad Preferences (which apply to Facebook’s ad categories), we do our best to apply those choices wherever we show ads to that person using Facebook data.  We wanted controls for data provider categories to work similarly, so we required the data providers to provide opt-outs that work across all the services that use their data for ads.”


In other words,

Zuck On It!





Further Reading

Data Mining




What do you think about Facebook data mining by buying your offline information from third-party brokers?



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