One thing has really pissed Facebook off in its quest to know absolutely everything about all its users so it can make vast profits by delivering ever more highly targeted advertising – and that is it cannot easily keep track of users as they switch between devices, leaving a gap in its knowledge that is growing as more and more people use mobile devices as their primary means of accessing the internet.
Erik Johnson, Head of Atlas, explains the problem,
‘People spend more time on more devices than ever before. This shift in consumer behavior has had a profound impact on a consumer’s path to purchase, both online and in stores. And today’s technology for ad serving and measurement – cookies – are flawed when used alone. Cookies don’t work on mobile, are becoming less accurate in demographic targeting and can’t easily or accurately measure the customer purchase funnel across browsers and devices or into the offline world.’
It’s lucky for us, then, that Facebook has an answer! It goes by the name of Atlas, a technology that Facebook bought from Microsoft last year, and which has been redesigned ‘from the ground up’ to ensure Facebook can track consumers across all devices they use,
‘For example, Instagram – as a publisher – is now enabled with Atlas to both measure and verify ad impressions. And for Atlas advertisers who are already running campaigns through Instagram, Instagram ads will be included in Atlas reporting.’
A full list of current partners is available here. It is theoretically possible for Facebook users to opt out of Atlas, but as the platform is largely powered by data broker companies such as Acxiom whose business it is to buy, sell, and transfer data, we have very little confidence this will be effective.
Simply deleting your Facebook account is of course the best opt out option available, but those unwilling to do this but who care about their privacy, should at least uninstall the Facebook (and Facebook Messenger) apps from their mobile devices, and access Facebook only through a web browser (preferably in ‘Private mode’, and even more preferably isolated inside a Virtual Machine). Android users may also want to check out the Tinfoil for Facebook app.