Facebook knows what you do when you are offline. Image: Business Insider.

Facebook needs data from its users to function more than any other social network. The company lives from advertising revenue, so it uses the information to make personalized ads increasing the platform’s marketing effectiveness.

However, most people are not aware of this fact. They do not know that Facebook records their behavior, meddling into their online lives from time to time.

They might also not know that Facebook is (apparently) also snooping into their offline lives for the same purpose. As always, it seems that Facebook wants to learn more about its users than even they know about themselves.

Facebook gets public offline information from third-party data brokers

The social media platform, according to many online reports, has begun a recent set of partnerships meant to gather data from its user’s habits when they are away from the site and into the real world.

It all started early in 2013 when Facebook began to do business with two companies called Acxiom and Epsilon. Both of them collect data from public places and later sell them to companies like Facebook for revenue.

Data collection companies, which also include other big names like BlueKai and Datalogix, sometimes have access to information about a given user when they make purchases at stores, joining a mailing list or other situations.

Some sources claim that these companies handle private information that could include things that Facebook could not know solely by a user’s online activity, like their economic situation, buying habits, required medication, height, weight, and much more.

Zuckerberg’s empire is not being honest about what they know

The real issue at hand is the level of disclosure that Facebook provides to the end user. As stated above, the vast majority does not know this is happening, and the vast majority would most likely not agree to it.

The company has officially said that they choose not to tell users about this particular data collection because “it’s widely available” and they did not assemble it in the first place.

They also added that they have “a different approach” for restrictions on data regarding third-party categories because these companies also make this information available to other platforms.

Steve Satterfield, Facebook’s manager of privacy and policy, reiterated that users could opt-out of this third party data collection by contacting these third-party brokers directly or accessing Facebook’s help center (which ultimately leads to these data brokers).

But again, two primary issues remain. The first one is how much they know precisely about an individual user’s life (which they don’t disclose), and the second is why users can’t directly opt-out through Facebook.

How to opt-out of Facebook collecting your offline data

Like Satterfield stated, contacting Datalogix, Acxiom, or one of the multiple companies that manage your data might be a likely first step. But there are too many to count, and most of them will not make the process easy for the privacy-concerned customer.

In fact, reports point out to Acxiom asking users for the last four digits of their social security number to show them their data. Not to delete it, not to opt-out, just to show them what they have on them.

However, most of them do have an opt-out option. Users should focus on getting out from Acxiom, Datalogix, and Epsilon. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a step-by-step guide on how to do this correctly.

Source: ProPublica / Public Frontier guide