While tracking Web surfing is well known and commonly reviled, and there's even been some advances made in eyeball tracking to see where a person's gaze falls on a website or the like, Facebook is looking to get into a new and no less creepy form of tracking: specifically, Facebook wants to know where your cursor is, and is firing up a new kind of tracking system geared toward figuring out exactly where the pointer is at any given time.
Tracking pictures, private messages and the like is already part and parcel of the Facebook experience, but Facebook is stepping things up that will allow the company to know where a user's cursor is at all times. According to Facebook's Ken Rudin, chief of analytics for the company, Facebook is working on what's described as a “massive increase” in the amount of data that Facebook collects about user behavior, leading some to wonder just what, exactly, was left to collect. Word is that Facebook is out to collect not just mouse movement data, but also when the Facebook app is open on a smartphone, and for how long.
image via shutterstock
All of this data is being used toward the same essential purpose, at last report, which is the pursuit of better marketing and improving the value of Facebook to advertisers. The more that Facebook knows about its user base, the better that Facebook can do in terms of targeting advertising and making the overall impact of same the best it can be. But more than that, it's also about a better user experience. If Facebook can find that a cursor is commonly going to a certain part of the screen, it can adjust the site's layout accordingly to make more popular features front-and-center.
It may sound sinister—and it certainly has some applications that don't just sound sinister but actually are—but there are also plenty of very useful applications for such a system. Right now, Facebook is just testing the technology at last report, and there's word that the company is not alone. Shutterstock, for example “records literally everything you do on the site,” and Netflix tracks virtually everything, including cursor movement and scrolling through options, all in aid of improving recommendations.
It's a difficult position for companies to be in, and one that was actually reflected through recent studies. Consumers want privacy. Said consumers do not want to be tracked, not at all...yet by like token, a percentage of customers that's only slightly smaller than the percentage that want privacy above all want companies that understand the customer's needs, interests, and potential likes, and can offer up very relevant promotions and offers matching those needs. Still, tracking is tracking, and tracking scares a lot of people. Facebook engaging in more tracking may scare some users off, but those who remain may well get a better experience out of the deal. That's a hard trade-off for some to make, but for some, it's not so hard at all.
Edited by Ryan Sartor