Facebook Hires Datalogix to Collect Offline Consumer Data, Privacy Groups Concerned

Sep 25, 2012 15:20:01Posted by John Skorick, MyAKA Founder & CEO

Facebook Hires Datalogix to Collect Offline Consumer Data, Privacy Groups Concerned

Facebook recently announced a marketing partnership with Datalogix, and internet privacy advocates want the government to investigate. Datalogix, a company that collects consumer data, will step in to help Facebook improve its targeted marketing and gain a better understanding of consumer behavior, according to the International Business (IB) Times.

Most consumer tracking follows online use, but Datalogix will provide Facebook with a clear picture of offline consumer spending habits. The tracking company agreed to provide Facebook with purchasing data for more than 70 million American households, the news source reports. Datalogix plans to take email addresses and other personal information from loyalty cards and similar programs used at more than 1,000 retail locations and connect the data with a person's Facebook account. The idea behind this strategy is to give Facebook marketers the ability to understand how online ads influence consumers.

When consumer privacy groups got wind of this new partnership, they immediately began to raise concerns. Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) officials told CNET they would be calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate this business practice. Other organizations have echoed the these concerns, including the Center for Digital Democracy, which hopes to ensure that Facebook is taking its users' internet security into consideration.

"I believe the FTC should be investigating all of this as part of its review under the consent decree," Jeff Chester, Executive Director of the Center for Digital Democracy, explained to CNET. "Ad exchanges allow them to take this data and apply it in real-time and sell it to the highest bidder including Facebook. They are using reams of additional data, including from online, to target Facebook users."

The consumer rights groups are hoping that Facebook will be required to obtain the express consent of its users to track their online and offline data. CNN reports that Facebook subscribers are unable to opt out of the Datalogix studies through the social media site, though they can visit the Datalogix website if they wish to be removed from the data collection pool. Facebook indicated that any personal, identifying information is made anonymous during the collection process, which may allay some concerns about internet privacy.

"We know that people share a lot of information on Facebook, and we have taken great care to make sure that we measure the effectiveness of Facebook ads without compromising the commitments we have made on privacy," a Facebook spokesperson told the IB Times. "We don't sell people's personal information, and individual user data is not shared between Facebook, Datalogix or advertisers."