As you all know many websites and apps use Facebook services to make their content and ads more engaging and relevant. These services include social plugins, such as Like and Share buttons, which make other sites more social and help you share content on Facebook; Facebook Login, which lets you use your Facebook account to log into another website or app; Facebook Analytics, which helps websites and apps better understand how people use their services; and Facebook ads and measurement tools, which enable websites and apps to show ads from Facebook advertisers, to run their own ads on Facebook or elsewhere, and to understand the effectiveness of their ads.
So, when you visit a site or app that uses Facebook services, the company receives information even if you’re logged out or don’t have a Facebook account. This is mainly because other apps and sites don’t know who is using Facebook.
Many companies offer these types of services and, like Facebook, they also get information from the apps and sites that use them. Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn all have similar Like and Share buttons to help people share things on their services. Google has a popular analytics service. And Amazon, Google and Twitter all offer login features.
What kind of data does Facebook get from these websites and apps?
Apps and websites that use Facebook services, such as the Like button or Facebook Analytics, send us information to make their content and ads better. Here is how it happens.
When you visit a website, your browser (for example Chrome, Safari or Firefox) sends a request to the site’s server. The browser shares your IP address so the website knows where on the internet to send the site content. The website also gets information about the browser and operating system (for example Android or Windows) you’re using because not all browsers and devices support the same features. It also gets cookies, which are identifiers that websites use to know if you’ve visited before. This can help with things like saving items in your shopping cart.
A website typically sends two things back to your browser: first, content from that site; and second, instructions for the browser to send your request to the other companies providing content or services on the site. So, when a website uses one of Facebook’s services, your browser sends the same kinds of information to Facebook as the website receives. Facebook also gets information about which website or app you’re using, which is necessary to know when to provide our tools.
This happens for any other service the site is using. For example, when you see a YouTube video on a site that’s not YouTube, it tells your browser to request the video from YouTube. YouTube then sends it to you.
How does Facebook use the data it receives from other websites and apps?
There are three main ways in which Facebook uses the information we get from other websites and apps: providing our services to these sites or apps; improving safety and security on Facebook; and enhancing our own products and services.
Facebook uses your IP address, browser/operating system information, and the address of the website or app you’re using to make social plugin features work. For example, knowing your IP address allows Facebook to send the Like button to your browser and helps the company to show it in your language. Cookies and device identifiers help determine whether you’re logged in, which makes it easier to share content or use Facebook to log into another app.
Facebook Analytics gives websites and apps data about how they are used. IP addresses help Facebook list the countries where people are using an app. Browser and operating system information enable the social network to give developers information about the platforms people use to access their app. Cookies and other identifiers help count the number of unique visitors. Cookies also help Facebook recognise which visitors are Facebook users to provide aggregated demographic information, like age and gender, about the people using the app.
Facebook Audience Network enables other websites and apps to show ads from Facebook advertisers.
“When we get a request to show an Audience Network ad, we need to know where to send it and the browser and operating system a person is using. Cookies and device identifiers help us determine whether the person uses Facebook. If they don’t, we can show an ad encouraging them to sign up for Facebook. If they do, we’ll show them ads from the same advertisers that are targeting them on Facebook. We can also use the fact that they visited a site or app to show them an ad from that business – or a similar one – back on Facebook,” the company said in a blog post.
What controls do you have?
Facebook require websites and apps who use their tools to tell you they’re collecting and sharing your information with us, and to get your permission to do so. Facebook also gives you a number of controls over the way this data is used to provide more relevant content and ads such as News Feed preferences lets you choose which content you see first and hide content you don’t want to see in your feed. You can also view your News Feed chronologically instead of ranked by what Facebook predicts you might be most interested in.
In addition, you can opt out of these types of ads entirely — so you never see ads on Facebook based on information we have received from other websites and apps.
Finally, if you don’t want Facebook to use your interests to show you ads on other websites and apps, there’s a control for that too.