Facebook knows a lot about you. I mean, a lot. If you've ever been creeped out by a scarily on-point ad while visiting Facebook, that's why. But some of you might wonder where Facebook gets its data. The answer is simple: data brokers.
A data broker collects your information from various sources and depending on the broker in question, this information could come from online, offline, or both. Whenever you make a purchase online or utilize your grocery store's loyalty card, the data on your purchases is collected by at least one company. Facebook buys this data and, letting advertisers use it to more specifically target ads towards you. Though Facebook says that the data brokers anonymize what they collect, the details can still be matched against your Facebook profile, building for Facebook and its advertisers a complete picture of who you are.
There's some good news here, though. You can opt-out of this sort of data collection at a lot of data brokers including the companies with which Facebook has partnered. And you can do this on top of using security features such as limiting ad tracking on devices like your iPhone and iPad.
- How to remove your data from or stop tracking by Facebook's data providers
- KBM Group
Who has your data
Right now, Facebook lists seven companies as "Audience Data Providers" on its Marketing Partners Program. These are the companies that currently provide data to Facebook from around the world:
- Oracle Data Cloud
- KBM Group
- CCC Marketing
The bad news is that these companies are Facebook's partners for now. The social network sometimes rotates between different data providers, meaning that if another company starts providing its data to Facebook, you'll probably want to opt-out of them, as well.
How to remove your data from or stop tracking by Facebook's data providers
In your quest to wrench your data from the grips of these data brokers, know that it will take awhile. One thing in common with all of these companies is that you'll need to specify exactly what you want to be left out of any data collection, including your name, phone number, and any email addresses.
Here's how to suppress your data or prevent tracking at the Facebook data partners that provide such tools.
In addition to options for opting out of data collection by phone or mail, Acxiom provides an online form that you can fill out in order to prevent your data from being collected. Note that this opt-out form covers only one identity at a time.
- Head to https://isapps.acxiom.com/optout/optout.aspx in your browser or choice.
- Click the checkboxes under the type of information that you want to remove (mailing addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses) from Acxiom's data tracking under Acxiom Corporations's Online Opt-Out.
- Choose who is the subject of this data removal: yourself, someone over whom you have guardianship, or a deceased family member.
- Click the green + sign on the box that says Full Names.
- Add your name to the fields presented to you that you want to be removed from Acxiom's data tracking.
- Click Add to complete adding the name to the opt-out list.
- Repeat steps 4-6 to add more names to the list, including nicknames, former names, and married names. This list, like the other three, accepts up to 10 entries.
- Click the green + sign on the box that says Phone numbers.
- Add a phone number that you want to be removed from tracking.
- Click Add to add the phone number to your opt-out list.
- Repeat steps 8-10 to add more numbers to your list.
- Click the green + sign on the box that says Email Addresses.
- Add an email address that you want to be removed from tracking.
- Click Add to add the email address to your opt-out list.
- Repeat steps 12-14 to add more email addresses to your list
- Click the green + sign on the box that says Mailing Addresses.
- Add a mailing address that you want to be removed from tracking.
- Click Add to add the mailing address to your opt-out list.
- Repeat steps 15-17 to add more mailing addresses to your list.
- Click Submit.
- Enter the email address to which you'd like Acxiom to send your opt-out confirmation.
- Click Submit. Acxiom will send you an email with a link you need to complete your opt-out request.
- Click the link in the email from Acxiom.
- Click Submit on the confirmation page.
The data you submitted on Axiom's forms should now be removed from Acxiom's marketing packages.
Contacting Epsilon to opt-out of its databases is all about direct mail. Epsilon doesn't actually own anything like email data, so all it can do is stop providing your name and mailing address to clients. In order to opt-out of mail from Epsilon clients, you'll need to send an opt-out request to firstname.lastname@example.org and provide your full name and address for the opt-out procedure.
Ugh, Experian. This company offers its databases to clients for several different purposes and, as a result, has seven different products from which you might want your information removed. Some of these can be opted-out of by a link, while others require you to email, mail, or call in your opt-out request. You can opt out of Experian's databases via link for the following services:
On each of these pages, there will be a link labeled "Click here" that you can click to opt-out of the tracking performed for these services. Unfortunately, all this opt-out process does is embed a cookie in your browser so that Experian's trackers around the web knows not to track you. This means that the opt-out is only for activity performed in your current browser on your current computer.
If you want Experian to suppress the information that it has collected on you and continues to collect across its direct mail, telemarketing, and online targeted advertising services, you'll need to send an email containing all of the relevant information that you want suppressed to email@example.com. If you're looking to opt out of Experian's email marketing databases, you'll need to send an email from the address you want to opt out to firstname.lastname@example.org, which will remove you from the company's permission-based email database used by Experian and its partners.
Finally, opt out of pre-approved offers like credit cards and insurance mailing lists by calling 1-888-567-8688.
Oracle Data Cloud
Like Experian, Oracle offers an opt-out cookie for its Internet Based Advertising product. This will prevent Oracle tools from tracking your activity in your current browser on your current machine. Here's how to use it.
- Head to Oracle's Opt-Out Tool website.
- Click the big, orange Opt-Out button.
You can also opt-out of Oracle's offline marketing information collection. Follow these steps:
- Head to Oracle's offline opt-out website.
- Fill out the available form with your name, address, and email address.
- Click Submit.
Quantium, compared to the rest of these companies, makes it fairly easy to opt-out of having your information shared with the company's partners, including Facebook. It provides a number of links that let you opt-out of being targeted by a Quantium partner's advertisers using Quantium-provided data.
For instance, opt out of Facebook ad targeting with these steps:
- Head to Quantium's Opt Out website
- Click Confirm under Facebook Targeted Advertising.
Like other services, this opt-out only applies to your current browser and computer, so you'll need to opt out again if and when you get a new machine or start using a new browser.
You can also click on the following links and follow the quick instructions to limit tracking in your browser on Quantium's partner sites:
Like some of the others, KBM offers a cookie-based opt-out solution for your current web browser. Follow these steps to activate it.
- Head over to the KBM Group Interactive Opt-Out website.
- Click the click here button on the line that begins. "To complete the opt-out process,".
If the opt-out it successful, you'll be taken to a screen that says so.
A quick note
These are by no means the only data brokers out there. Data collection and brokerage is a massive industry. If you'd like to try and opt out of data collection by more brokers, check out this list of companies, which also features links to their opt-out tools or instructions. Keep in mind that this list is a few years old, so some of its information might be out of date. But it's a good resource for getting started.
If all of this seems a bit confusing, that's probably because it's supposed to. These companies really don't want you opting out of their data collection because that's how they make money. The important thing is to keep slogging through it.
Something to be aware of as you complete these processes is that your data won't actually be removed from the databases these companies keep. They'll suppress it, and not send it to their marketing partners like Facebook, but they'll hang on to it to make sure that it a piece of your data hits their database again, it stays out of their marketing services.
Also yes, it does seem counterintuitive that getting these companies to suppress information they collect about you often involves sending them a lot of information about you.
If you have any other questions about stopping data brokers from selling the data that they've collected on you, let us know in the comments.