This fall, Facebook will begin to track users’ TV watching on mobile devices and tablets by sending the age and gender of viewers to Nielsen, the company that tracks TV ratings.
As TV viewing has fractured via delayed viewings on DVR devices and online streaming, it has become difficult to truly figure out how many people are watching a given program. This partnership between Facebook and Nielsen seeks to fill in at least part of this missing puzzle, though the privacy implications are certain to upset advocates and users alike.
“Consumers really are not aware of the extent to which Facebook is putting their non-Facebook activity to use,” said Julia Horowitz of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “Watching television and surfing the Internet shouldn’t necessarily involve Facebook.”
According to Facebook, user information will be sent to Nielsen in aggregate so as not to reveal any information about users, and the info pulled by Facebook will only be a numerical code and not specific information about what users are viewing. Of course, the information will be used to help advertisers better target their marketing to viewers.
One obvious problem that may arise from this new initiative is that users will not be aware if Facebook is observing them. Perhaps they will be able to opt out of the feature, but for now it appears that users must take part in this corporate partnership.