Nick Whigham, a reporter for the New Zealand Herald, decided to test out a feature on Facebook that allows users to download a 'secret' file showing how much personal history the company has gathered about them. What he discovered is that Facebook not only has disturbingly vast consumer profiles on all 1.4 billion daily users but also tracks the internet movement and personalities of people who don't even log into the website.
A large part of Facebook's business model is selling the information it collects about users to advertisers. It's free to us because we're the product. Its algorithms track your posts, likes, shares, and preferences, of course, but they also track your overall Internet activity — the websites you go to, your operating system, your IP address, and comments you happen to leave on random forums — via social media plugins and cookies on third-party websites. Even if you're not logged into Facebook, your browsing behavior is tracked by secret trackers called Pixels, which are embedded on over 10,000 websites. Sorry, social media Luddites — even if you've never used Facebook, your online activity is tracked everytime you merely visit a website that contains Facebook ads and trackers.