Facebook is using purchase data from retailers to gather information about what people buy in physical stores, Business Insider reported on Monday (Dec. 16).
Retail companies are sending Facebook its customers’ names, contact information and details about purchased items, so the social media giant can target ads accordingly.
People can opt-out of targeted ads in Facebook’s Ad Preferences by turning off “ads based on data from partners.” Users can also find out how Facebook uses information gathered offline with the “Off-Facebook Activity” tool that was launched in August.
“All identifying information is hashed before it’s sent from retailers to Facebook and subsequently deleted after being used to match a user to a purchase,” a Facebook spokesperson told the news outlet.
“Hashing” is the process of coding text so that only algorithms can read it, which is a common privacy practice.
Dick’s Sporting Goods and Macy’s are two retailers that provide purchase data to Facebook.
“…We re-engaged customers who had visited one of our stores with a targeted Facebook ad,” a Dick’s Sporting Goods spokesperson said in a statement. “And, using lookalike audiences, created from people similar to those who visited our store, opened up a broader audience of new customers for us to reach, driving incremental foot traffic and sales.”
A Macy’s spokesperson said the goal is to increase sales at its brick-and-mortar stores. “We are encouraged by the positive results we saw in-store, and are excited to continue testing Facebook’s offline suite to fuel our growth,” the spokesperson said.
Last month, senators Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) and Chris Coons (D-Delaware) wrote a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg regarding Facebook’s ability to track the location of users even when they turn off location services. They also asked whether location services are used for targeted ads.