Photo: Sesame Street
We recently made the case that Facebook’s new ad exchange, FBX, was poorly understood by the world at large and by the ad business specifically, but that it could be more meaningful to Facebook’s future revenue growth than its mobile ad business.The exchange enables advertisers to target people with ads inside Facebook based on cookies — bits of tracking code that are dropped onto your device when you visit web sites — that identify users to advertisers.
Facebook, obviously, has a vast trove of data on its users. If the company were ever to start using that data to allow advertisers to target people with ads based on their interests, likes, friends or even Wall posts, then advertisers will likely leap at such an opportunity.
So we decided to ask a Facebook spokesperson what, exactly, will be the information that Facebook will serve from users’ personal Facebook pages on these cookies.
The answer is surprising. Here it is, (it’s a bit technical):
We do have a cookie, but this cookie is only used to sync with third party cookies to let them know that a specific anonymized ID has visited Facebook and they can now bid on the impression. An ad can then be served to someone on Facebook. These ads do not use any of a person’s like or interests and we do not share this information with the third parties bidding on the ads.
Hold on a moment. The cookies don’t leverage any of the most obviously useful data on Facebook? The spokesperson confirmed:
Our browser cookie is a syncing cookie — which is pretty standard across the industry. The cookie simply syncs with the third-party’s cookie so that we know it’s the same person.
Let’s get this straight: Other than confirming that a user is an anonymous Facebook member, the FBX cookies contain NO other data from Facebook?
All targeting is based on information the [ad buyer] has right now.
In plain English, the amount of personal data on Facebook’s tracking cookie for advertisers is close to zero. It says you’re an anonymous Facebook user, and that’s it. The advertiser has to apply their own data to the cookie to get any decent level of targeting out of it.
Next, we asked the obvious question: Are there any plans to ever switch on that data? That seems like the obvious value of Facebook to advertisers. The spokesperson replied:
No plans at this time.
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