5 tips to stop Facebook from stalking your real life

Facebook stalkingFacebook and its advertisers want to know everything about you, online and off. The latest push is around knowing where you grew up. If you’ve signed onto Facebook lately, you’ve probably seen it.

They’ve been asking for your hometown on your profile page for several weeks now, but they’ve gotten more aggressive lately: they’re putting it at the top of people’s news feeds and saying that your profile isn’t complete without it.

Why is Facebook pestering you to know where you grew up? It’s personal information that fills in another piece of the puzzle that makes you you. Knowing your hometown makes it easier to target you, not someone with a similar name. Knowing where you grew up–and where you live now–gives Facebook and its advertisers are better sense of the stores you like, where your family and friends are located, where you’re most likely to travel, and more. Your real life and history translates to more advertising money to Facebook, a revenue source that made up 83% of Facebook’s income in 2012.

Facebook hometown pestering

Facebook’s recent push to get your hometown is showing up at the top of users’ news feeds.

Facebook recently extended its advertiser tracking capabilities into the real world through partnerships with big data brokers like Acxiom and Datalogix. This data sharing will let advertisers know if people who see their ads online–on Facebook–go buy whatever was advertised in real life. They piece together your offline and online activities through your personal information. Let’s say you buy a shirt at the mall and give the person at checkout your email (they’re always asking for it). If that’s the same email you use on your Facebook account, advertisers can link the two. They also link your online and offline lives through your phone number or zip code.

Here are 5 things you can do to thwart Facebook’s ability to link your real-world shopping with your online activities:  

Facebook is calling

1. Don’t give Facebook your real email address or phone number

Facebook’s data use policy lets them share your information with hundreds, maybe even thousands, of advertisers, affiliates, and partners, which is why it’s smart to use a unique email and phone number that you don’t use anywhere else. Your email and phone number are the 2 pieces of info that Facebook and its big data partners use to figure out whether the same person who saw a Facebook ad online later bought the same item in a store.

Use an email address that you create solely for Facebook, or use a Masked Email or phone number. And when possible, don’t give Facebook anything.

2. Be stingy with you zip code, email, and phone number in stores

It seems like you can’t buy anything these days without the cashier asking for your personal info. Whether it’s to email you your receipt, sign you up for a rewards card, or send you coupons, it’s all a pretext to get your information, share it, and sell it. And now Facebook is one of the biggest recipients of that data. Stick to your guns and just say no when retail clerks ask you for your info. It’s not necessary to buy something, and for fellow Massachusetts residents like us, it’s now illegal. Same with California.

Facebook personal info

Your personal info on Facebook is the key to tracking your real-life activities.

3. Ignore Facebook’s attempts to collect more profile info (or give them fake info)

Facebook is always requiring more information to complete your profile, while at the same time eroding privacy controls and default settings to make more of your information public. Facebook can, and does, use your information for advertising. Here’s a good rule of thumb: if Facebook is asking for a piece of information that it doesn’t already have, don’t give it out. This applies to “security” measures too, like Facebook’s 2-step verification. Just because you give your mobile phone number for security purposes doesn’t mean Facebook won’t use it to track you.

We recommend using a fake name that looks realistic so it doesn’t look suspicious (technically, Facebook’s policies let it kick you off for not using your full, legal name). For example, use your first name and swap out your middle name for your last name. Or switch your birthday to the 1st of the real month and year in which you were born so you’ll be roughly the same age and you’ll remember it, but no one will get your real birthday if your account is ever compromised.

Facebook's real name policy

4. Use a privacy tool like DoNotTrackMe to block Facebook from snooping on your browsing

Those Facebook buttons you see everywhere online aren’t just for sharing: they’re trackers. They send your site activity back to Facebook even if you don’t click on them, and even if you’re not a member of Facebook. Our free browser add-on DoNotTrackMe (DNTMe) blocks these buttons from tracking you by default. Note that whatever you do on Facebook itself is still heavily tracked and not affected by DNTMe; it’s impossible to use Facebook without feeding its data collection.

do-not-track-me

5. Opt out of the 4 big data brokers that work with Facebook

Facebook recently partnered with 4 big data companies–Acxiom, Datalogix, Epsilon, and BlueKai–to get more information about your historical and offline activities. You can opt out of having these companies share your information for marketing, but (annoyingly) you have to do a separate process for each company. Just follow the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s easy-to-follow instructions and you’ll be all set.

Facebook's data broker partners

Facebook’s data broker partners




8 comments shared on this article:

  • NetDweller says:

    I’m not a Facebook user. I am a DNTPlus user. I came across a new type of tracking. Just giving an FYI:

    I was looking at a very specific item online from my desktop computer. Then, the next day I was browsing a website from a wireless device. I had an ad fed to me on that website with the same exact item I was looking at from my desktop. The item was the same brand and fed up from the same website where I was considering buying it from.

    Note:

    - The desktop computer and wireless device have two different service providers
    - The internet browsers from the desktop to the wireless device are not the same software
    - I did not sign into the webpage where the item ad was fed to me from
    - My computer and wireless device are not synced.

  • PrivacyNut says:

    Arghhh: the opt-out form for Acxiom doesn’t work today (7 June): completed all screens to be greeted with “please try tomorrow”.

  • Or you could simply stop using Facebook entirely! Everything about Facebook is designed to get you to spend more time on Facebook. That includes encouraging the type of discussion that alienates people. I think more friendships have been broken on Facebook than have been rekindled.

    If you must use Facebook (or as I prefer to call it, Fecesbook) you should do so using a fake name, fake email address, and your browser’s “incognito” or “private browsing” function. That’s an easy way to keep Facebook from setting or reading cookies in the rest of your browsing world.

    But seriously … dump Facebook and switch to Google Plus. That’s where Facebook users go when they grow up.

  • Andres says:

    Or you could just stop givvin too much importance to the internet. I have facebook, twiteer etc. I just dont care about them.

  • cate says:

    I have Do not Track me installed, but for now I have to disable it on Facebook in order to get FB to work properly….. I assume you know about the problem, but basically you have to disable doubleclick otherwise you have many things just not working on FB. I am waiting for an update!!! :)

  • Sarah says:

    I’ve discovered in the past few months that Facebook has been tracking my phone’s text messages and the things I talk about over it to target me with ads of that EXACT subject. I swear to god, they listen to me in person now. The things that I have spoken about only in person and my most secret conversations have popped up on Facebook in the form of ads suggestions based off of what I was talking about. I have so many screenshots to prove this, and that they also use the audio of my phone calls. Everytime I need to have a private conversation now, I have to put my phone in a different room. Is this even legal for facebook to do?

  • Hello sir , I m facebook account name- Neeraj kumar Bittu , i m use ‘ fake name ‘ plz help me…. My email :- neer...@gmail.com . My Mob No – 095074519550 , plz …( Very important question and photos in facebook ) .

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