Facebook Pixel or how to take cookies one step further

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facebook pixel

What is Facebook Pixel?

“Facebook Pixel” or simply “Pixel”, is a tool devised by the company Facebook to improve and optimize the advertising campaigns launched through its platform and to help increase conversions via remarketing of the advertising campaigns launched via Facebook Ads. A technology that the company itself defines as follows:

You can use the Facebook Pixel to know the actions that people take on your website and reach the audiences that interest you.

An interesting and simple idea at the same time: Facebook has created a technology that will allow it to show an ad only to those buyers (its users) who perfectly adapt to the target of the advertising campaign initiated by one of its clients. Facebook Ads. A concept that, a priori, seems revolutionary and innovative in terms of commercial potential but which, in practice, is nothing more than a technological evolution regarding the use of third-party cookies.

facebook pixel

A new way to use cookies

Technologically speaking, Píxel is a javascript code created by Facebook when starting an advertising campaign within the platform. A web code that, to function correctly, must be inserted into the source code of a web page so that it can generate a cookie each time a visitor accesses it.
Once installed, the Pixel cookie will collect information on the user’s movements during this visit, which includes everything from seeing a purchase procedure to knowing which links you access while browsing. Information will be sent to Facebook so that it can use it as it deems necessary.

So far, everything is normal. Facebook Pixel would not be very different from the so-called third-party cookies and the functions that they may develop. Now, where is the news? Very simple, in the fact that it is precisely Facebook who is obtaining the information.

We are talking about a social network that has a lot of identifying information about a person. In fact, it has both those that the user himself has been able to contribute when registering and interacting with the social network (name, age, gender, tastes, hobbies, etc.) and those that they have been able to obtain with their algorithms (if you want to know a little more about it, I recommend you read “How to discover everything Facebook knows about you” from the ‘BBC Mundo’, “Facebook knows more about you than you think” from ‘El Pais’ or “98 things Facebook knows about you “from ‘GenBeta’).

Therefore, when the Pixel cookie can connect with Facebook (when logging in or automatically via the active login ‘token’), Facebook crosses the data collected by Pixel with those it already has in its possession, thus creating a Millietrico profile of your user which can be used to show you ads appropriate to your tastes and interests.

A way of operating is that, when you have more than 2,000 million active users and in 2016 you earn 9,509 million euros with online advertising, it gives a very attractive added value to your product. At the end of the day, thanks to this system you have just given advertisers the possibility of changing the variable “terminal” for that of “person” in the marketing scheme via third-party cookies and, with this, allow them to increase their potential of your conversions or web remarketing campaigns.

Although, of course, the thing does not end here. Along with the Pixel cookie, Facebook has also improved the advertising sales system, now allowing you to segment your advertising campaigns (which allows you to have as many Pixels as you have advertising campaigns running) and allowing the users themselves to choose what information they want Pixel to obtain from their website visitors. This second case is undoubtedly the most curious since it allows a “self-made” of obtaining information by choosing between the use of standard events or custom events.

How useful is Facebook Pixel?

But let’s go to the most interesting point of this post: what is it about Facebook Pixel that makes it so tremendously attractive? Very simple: being able to obtain precise information from your users with which to display personalized ads that are fully aligned with their tastes, interests, and commercial preferences. Is this useful? Let’s analyze it:

Usefulness for Facebook

I think it’s obvious, the biggest beneficiary here is Facebook. With Píxel you can improve your user experience (in the end, they will only see things they like), offer your potential customers an extremely efficient behavioral advertising system, and a remarketing tool that no competing company has available.

Utility for Advertisers

Advertisers also earn a lot with Facebook Pixel. We are talking about brands, companies, or simply individuals who want to offer their products and services to the market and will be able to use Facebook Ads to increase their sales or the impact of their advertising campaigns. Thanks to Pixel, they will not only have a tool to improve their conversion rates and impact figures, but also the efficiency of their investments. This leads us to think that, in the end, they will be making the most of every euro invested in advertising.

Utility for web content/web page creators

In my opinion, the other big beneficiary of Facebook Pixel can be the owners of a website. I am referring to content creators who have a website with a very specific audience and a good level of traffic. These creators can agree with a brand or a company to install the Pixels that they are using to capture information from web visitors. With this, brands would capture information from an audience that is difficult for them to capture and the content creator may have a new revenue stream to continue generating their content. Interesting, right?

In case you have not finished seeing it yet, I will explain it to you by using this blog as an example:

Through my blog, I create content that targets two large groups of people: interested in electronic sports and interested in digital law. This content, from what my web tracker shows me, is high and interesting enough to say that I have constant and moderately high web traffic (although this, with Pixel, does not have to matter) to be of interest to any company that has this audience as an advertising target.

One day, a brand that is interested in getting into esports and that periodically makes announcements through Facebook Ads contacts me and offers to include a Pixel cookie from one of their campaigns to help them capture information from their potential audience. In exchange for installing it, they offer me a certain amount of money to increase according to visits to the web. Who gains from this? Both, right? A win-win between advertiser and content creator, based on a few lines of javascript and a job well done by both parties.

Read more: What is Facebook Ads, what is it for and how does it work?

Usefulness for Users

Perhaps the user who earns the least from all this is the user. It is your privacy when browsing that is put into question in exchange for, at best, the benefit of avoiding receiving unwanted advertising or, simply, that you are not interested. However, it is what it is. In fact, this is one of the priorities of the last years of Facebook. In one of the recent movements of the company concerning its Privacy Policies (the last of January 30, 2018 ) they seek precisely this, to improve the user experience by limiting the types of ads that they will see during their experience in the platform. So, if you use this social network, you must accept these practices.

Finally, having seen all the above, I only have one question to solve: is it legal to install Pixel on a web page? Can we really use cookies to track a user’s activity and then transfer it to a third party? The answer is yes, as long as the various obligations related to cookies and privacy are met.

Regarding the cookie law, either on our website or a third website, to use this type of cookies, article 22.2 of Law 34/2002, of July 11, on information society services and e-commerce requires compliance with two obligations: inform the user and ask for consent (if you want to know more about them, I recommend you read my post “The legal obligations of cookies: article 22.2 LSSI “). If these requirements are adequately met, both own and third-party cookies can be used regardless of their functionality.

In terms of data protection and privacy, things are more complex. Technically, none of our personal data should be processed without complying with the Organic Law on Data Protection. In practice, this means that consent must be requested from the user when obtaining their personal data, also informing them about the uses, purposes, and final recipients of that data. But of course, who actually processes personal data with Facebook Pixel?

As we have seen previously, the web page where the Pixel cookie is installed does not collect personal data when using it since technically the information is stored so that it can only be read by Facebook. This would lead to Facebook having to comply with the legal obligations imposed by data protection regulations. That is why Facebook updates its Data Policies from time to time to adapt them to the new functions of its website (even though in its latest version, the information they have or the use they give it is not entirely clear).

It will be different with the entry into force of the General Data Protection Regulation since with it it could be argued that personal data is being processed and that a series of legal obligations must be complied with. But to be able to affirm this without a doubt and, returning to the article to which I referred at the beginning, it is necessary to wait for how the cookie law proposal advances and who should assume certain obligations concerning this matter.


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Posted by Rebecca
Rebecca is an Independent content writer for breldigital, She writes content on any given topic. She loves to write a case study article or reviews on a brand, Be it any topic, she nails it
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