April 26, 2021

I don’t want Facebook to watch you eat

We’re trying to figure out digital marketing. I keep feeling like I just have to hold my nose.

We used a company called Marketerhire (bad name I know, but at least it saves me from explaining what they do!) They connected us with a digital marketing specialist. He’s smart and fun to work with and has the right experience. But as he’s telling me about how these things work it’s just gut-wrenching. Nobody has any idea how evil these big tech companies are.

But I wanted to share something cool, not a rant. Here’s the technical part. When somebody (like Clover) goes to Facebook to advertise, Facebook says “here, just put this ‘pixel’ on your webpage.” That “tracking pixel” fires a message to Facebook every time something happens. So in this scenario when you look at our chickpea fritter sandwich details… zip, Facebook knows. When you add that chickpea fritter to your cart… zip, Facebook knows. And they don’t know that an anonymous user did this action, they know that you did it, they link it to your Facebook profile, your location, you name, your family connections, everything. They watch you buy your lunch.

If you’re a customer, Facebook links your actions at that NON-Facebook website to your Facebook user account. You don’t have to have anything “enabled.” You just have to have a Facebook Account and visit the website. It’s totally hidden. And Facebook is telling companies that they can’t advertise using Facebook unless they install the pixel.

So the Facebook Pixel is now on over 10 million websites. And they don’t just tell Facebook you’ve visited. They tell Facebook what you look at, what you add to your cart, what you take out of your cart, etc. etc.

This might sound crazy to you. It sounded crazy to me when I heard about it. But these “tracking pixels” are on millions and millions of web pages. Because if you want to advertise with Facebook this is what you have to do.

We came up with a little workaround that’s helping me sleep at night. We’re advertising on Facebook right now, not much, but enough to start figuring it out. And when customers who are using a Facebook product (Facebook or Instagram) come to our website via a Facebook ad link, we serve up a special version of our website that has those tracking pixels enabled. My logic is that if you’re coming from those sources they are already tracking you.

But if you’re visiting our website on your own, not from a Facebook ad, no tracking pixel.

I couldn’t find anybody else doing this, but I hope others are. I just hate the idea of these companies hoarding so much information about everybody, information that nobody else has access to. It has to lead to something bad someday.

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