Facebook spying

How Facebook follows you from the physical world to the online world

One day, you shop at a neighbourhood store for a vacuum cleaner. You can’t remember exactly what you did in the store, but lately, you start to notice online ads from that store. Coincidence?


You are not being paranoid. You are being tracked. To understand how, first go to Facebook. Then go to Settings > Ad preferences > Advertisers you’ve interacted with > Advertisers who uploaded a contact list with your info.

What do you see?

You will see a list of businesses that you had interacted with before. How did they end up in your privacy settings? Well, according to Facebook, this is how:

Basically, you gave some of your personal information to that neighbourhood store. That store then gave your information to Facebook to match. That is how it appeared in your Facebook privacy settings.

How does it look like from that store’s point of view? Go to this page on Facebook.

According to Facebook, “Custom Audience” is for targeting Facebook ads to people in businesses’ contact list:

It’s easier to sell to current customers than to look for new ones, so strengthen your existing connections by using Custom Audiences. We’ll compare your data with ours to help you find the people you know on Facebook.

If you have a customer list or data from your site, like purchaser email addresses, you’re ready to get started.

Once you create your Custom Audience, your information will be encrypted to protect customer relationships and you’ll be set to reach more people on Facebook.

So, what can you do? In my book, Digital Security & Privacy for Dummies, I have lots of ideas to help you protect your privacy from companies like Facebook.


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