Facebook will tell advertisers when you visit their offline stores

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Facebook has long tracked people’s movements across the web, even if you don’t have a Facebook account.

Now Facebook is rolling out a new service for retailers allowing them to connect their advertising campaigns on Facebook with your offline, flesh-and-blood movements when you shop in their brick-and-mortar stores.

By tracking your smartphone’s location with GPS and nearby Wi-Fi signals, combined with the ads you see, Facebook can tell retailers how many people who see their ads subsequently visit their stores.

As Facebook said this week in announcing the “store visits” service:

Historically, it has been difficult to quickly and effectively measure the impact of advertising on store visits and in-store sales. With the launch of store visits – a new metric in Ads Reporting – advertisers can now better understand their store traffic after running local awareness ads, complementing current ads reporting to provide a more complete picture.

Another feature announced by Facebook, the Offline Conversions API, allows advertisers to see how many people who see their ads go on to buy something:

The Offline Conversions API allows businesses to match transaction data from their customer database or point-of-sale system to Ads Reporting, helping them better understand the effectiveness of their ads in real-time. Businesses can work with partners such as IBM, Index, Invoca, Lightspeed, LiveRamp, Marketo and Square or with Facebook directly.

These new features should allow Facebook to drive more ad sales, and keep up with Google, which launched a similar service in AdWords back in 2014.

There is a benefit for Facebook users – ads for retailers who use the service will have a map showing you where the nearest store is so you can go buy that thing right now.

Facebook won’t identify you to advertisers – the data is collected in aggregate.

But, if you don’t want Facebook to track your movements, you need to turn off location services on your smartphone (if you have an iPhone, or Android version 6.0 or higher, you can turn off location for just the Facebook app).

If you’re concerned about the kinds of information Facebook gathers on you and want to learn how to protect your privacy, check out our articles on Facebook privacy settings, and Like the Naked Security Facebook page for more tips and advice.