Why Track Clients With Hidden Pixel?

So we got our Bye Bye Facebook event last night. It seems to have rocked the Facebook boat somewhat but a first estimate shows that only some 10000 Dutch FB accounts have been cancelled. Expect some more and also expect some repentants who just felt that after a few days their life seemed strangely empty without the FB clutter and noise. But offset against the Dutch FB base of 10 million user the wake-up call has not been very effective. So far, that is…

What is more effective is shaming companies that are tracking you (clients) and sending the tracked info to Facebook by using FB-pixel-plugin; a piece of Javascript code that captures your activities on that particular site without you knowing it.

More in particular, Dutch National Broadcast Association (NOS) found out that almost half of Dutch health insurance companies have placed a FB tracking pixel on their site. They are however hardly an exception. It is rather a rule to place tracking cookies on your site and let FB do their thing and sell personalized data to whoever needs it. National newspapers, television corporations, political parties and many, many shops, they all somehow decided this is a good idea. Is it?

It is part of a seemingly smart business model that will get you the most bang for your marketing bucks. Effectively it lets you improve your ad campaign, track FB conversions and create retargeting and remarketing audiences. If you are in the ad-business or depending on ads for your business it is a no brainer. So yes, for shops, online shops, media corporations it makes perfect sense as advertising is a key part of doing business. Nevertheless with new EU privacy rules in place since April 14th 2016 and to be enforced as of May 25 2018, the omnipresent FB tracking pixel cookies and lookalikes could mean trouble. GDPR constitutes a regulation that aims to “protect all EU citizens from privacy and data breaches in an increasingly data-driven world that is vastly different from the time in which the 1995 directive was established.”

As for tracking pixels organizations should wonder if the information gathered “is related to a natural person or ‘Data Subject’, that can be used to directly or indirectly identify the person. It can be anything from a name, a photo, an email address, bank details, posts on social networking websites, medical information, or a computer IP address.”. Time indeed to evaluate ones online policy and especially ones cookie and tracking policies

Back to health insurance companies. Why are they using these tracking cookies and even more important why using an invisible tracking pixel so nobody will notice? Our health insurance is mandatory so we just can’t do away with it and therefore have to put up with tracking policies we may not agree with. The fact that a private US company has access to so much data with the ability to personalize them and add them to their existing profiles is at least worriesome.

Some of the large insurance provider’s (Menzis and ONVZ) reaction was to immediately remove the tracking pixel or to ‘evaluate their online policy’. It seemed as they were surprised, either by the fact they had these tracking cookies running or, all the sudden fuzz about it. If they were aware of it they knew that FB pixel tracking cookies are intended go under the public radar and also do not honor the Do-Not-Track signals from visitors. Enough reason to go quiet about it although it is blatantly naïve to expect nobody would ever notice. On the other hand, if the board of directors of insurance corporations were not aware of having FB tracking pixels running on their sites it means their marketing departments have been overly creative on reaching their marketing goals while forgetting the company’s primary mission. About time GDPR is going active. As a consumer we have got the right to be forgotten and the right to access. That said, May 25 is a good moment to go ByeByeFacebook.

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About Marcel Warmerdam

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