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Facebook user data was tracked on average by 2,230 companies, which share this information with the social network's advertising tool, according to a study by the American association Consumer Report published by The Markup based on a sample of 709 volunteers.

The research team asked this sample of people – not representative of the American population and potentially more concerned about their personal data than the average – to download their data from the last three years on Facebook.

The analysis (New window) found that around 187,000 companies hold information on American consumers, which they communicate to Facebook. The average per person was 2,230 companies, but some had been tracked by more than 7,000 and, in one case, by nearly 48,000.

These firms use the advertising platform of Meta, the parent company of Facebook, to upload the information and purchasing habits of their customers – data collected in part thanks to Facebook trackers present on their site. The giant then uses them to serve targeted ads to people with a similar profile.

Among the most voracious companies are Amazon, Walmart and Home Depot, but also several marketing agencies and data brokerage companies.

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At the top of the list is the broker LiveRamp, from San Francisco, which tracked the data of 96% of Internet users in the sample. Its parent company, Acxiom, boasts on its site that it can reach more than 2.5 billion marketable consumers worldwide.

However, most of the firms could not be identified by the research team because their name was too generic, such as Viking, or because they borrowed unusual series of characters, such as Bm 5 100tkqc nlm .

On its site, the social network specifies that companies and organizations are not authorized to share sensitive data, such as financial and medical information. Meta adds that it receives activity from companies and organizations that use [its] Business tools to better understand the performance of their website, application or advertisements.

Contacted by The Markup, Meta responded by specifying that it offers a number of transparency tools that help people understand the information that companies choose to share with us, and control how it is used.

Users of the social network can consult the list of companies that communicate their data to Facebook by going to the Meta account area (New window), then on the Your information and authorizations page in the menu on the left. Scroll down to Your Activity Outside of Meta Technologies, click on that, then click Recent Activity.

It's there that people can also erase past activity or even dissociate certain activities. It is also possible to download the details of these activities.

With information from The Markup, The Verge and Le Monde

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