An employee writes a note on the message board at the new headquarters of Facebook in Menlo Park, California January 11, 2012
An employee writes a note on the message board at the new headquarters of Facebook in Menlo Park, California January 11, 2012

Facebook to start showing ads across the internet to everyone, whether or not they have an account

The site had kept its ads limited to people who were signed up to Facebook – until now

Andrew Griffin
Friday 27 May 2016 15:02

Facebook is going to stat tracking and showing ads to people across the internet.

The site had previously followed people around the internet to gather data and then use that to show them ads when they visited certain sites. But it will now be expanding those capabilities to everyone, whether or not they actually use Facebook, according to the Wall Street Journal.

It will use a combination of plug-ins and cookies to follow where people are going. It will then be able to show them ads when they visit sites in its “Audience Network” ad scheme – something that previously only showed if people were logged into Facebook.

The decision will help it take on sites like Google as a way for advertisers to show adverts across the internet. While Facebook is already a huge advertising force, it had previously been limited to Facebook users who visit pages within its ad network.

“Publishers and app developers have some users who aren’t Facebook users,” Andrew Bosworth, who runs Facebook’s ads and business platform, told the Wall Street Journal. “We think we can do a better job powering those ads.”

It hopes that it can beat out those other networks by harnessing the huge amount of data that it already holds to try and make more intelligent decisions about what people might be interested in. Since it already has such a huge amount of data about such a large number of people, it can guess what people who don’t actually use the site might be interested in by comparing them with people who do.

“Because we have a core audience of over a billion people who we do understand, we have a greater opportunity than other companies using the same type of mechanism,” Mr. Bosworth said.

Facebook uses the information that it collects about what people like to read, click on and talk about to show them the ads that it thinks will be relevant, which meant that it was previously only worth showing ads to those people who are members of the site. But now by tracking all users it will also be able to show them all targeted marketing, by looking for where else they’ve been on the web and using that information to try and decide what they might like.

Such technologies are now widespread across the internet, where small pieces of software called cookies are left on people’s computers to try and work out where people have been and what they might be interested in seeing ads about.

But the decision might still get Facebook in trouble with some regulators. The site has had ongoing problems with some European countries where authorities object to Facebook’s tracking and have forced it to stop using technologies like its Like button for people who aren’t signed up.

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