Facebook Looks To Track Users Without Using Cookies

Mobile / Tech

Traditionally, usage habits are tracked online through the use of cookies – a small piece of code on a website that tracks what you do on that site. Companies such as Facebook and Google use cookies as part of their advertising platforms in order to help serve up ads better related to people’s interests based on previous browsing habits. All that is about to change as Facebook is set to launch a new advertising platform dubbed Atlas.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook is set to present their new advertising platform to advertisers next week. Facebook purchased the Atlas Advertiser Suite from Microsoft last year, and Atlas is an updated version of this software.

Why the move away from cookies? While cookies have worked well in the past, the shift to mobile devices and the significant increase of time spent using mobile devices have created some issues for advertisers as cookies aren’t very effective on smartphones and tablets. It’s no secret that Facebook tracks your usage and what ads you click on while using Facebook via their website or mobile apps, but Atlas promises to extend this tracking to other sites, and even other apps.

With Atlas, Facebook hopes to fix those problems by linking users’ ad interactions to their Facebook accounts, which can be used to track users across both desktop and mobile devices, albeit on an anonymous basis. For example, a marketer using Atlas might now be able to understand that a customer purchased a product on a desktop computer, but first saw an ad for it on their smartphone device.

Furthermore, according to the WSJ,

Facebook also plans to pitch marketers on the concept of using Atlas to tie consumers’ offline behaviors to their online ones. For instance, a consumer who purchases a pair of shoes in a store might volunteer her email address at the checkout. Facebook could then use that email address to inform the retailer if, when, and where the consumer saw its ads across the Web, if the email address is tied to a Facebook account.

When one hears about plans such as tying in offline and online behavior based on your email address, one has to wonder just exactly how Facebook plans to track your mobile usage – especially considering users don’t typically walk around with their Facebook or Facebook Messenger apps open all the time. Facebook faced some serious heat awhile ago when it came to light that they tracked your browsing habits on your desktop computer, even if you didn’t have a Facebook window open. As long as you had signed into Facebook at some point, and hadn’t logged out, they could track your usage across other websites. Given recent examination of their Facebook Messenger app, one can’t help but suspect that their apps may be instrumental in tracking your mobile usage as well.

When contacted about Atlas, Facebook responded by saying “we haven’t announced news on Atlas, nor do we comment on rumors or speculation.”

How do you feel about Facebook’s anticipated changes to online tracking? Let us know in the comments below, or on Google+, Facebook or Twitter.

  Source: Wall Street Journal

Featured image dourtesy of TheNextWeb

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