Mozilla researchers announced the commencement of their “Facebook Pixel Hunt” investigation this week, which aims to trace Facebook’s massive web-wide tracking network and scrutinize the data it collects on users. This research is centered on a tracking device known as the “Facebook pixel,” as the name implies. You’ve probably visited a site that employs it; these tiny bits of technology may be found on literally millions of websites, from online businesses to news outlets to… well, you get the idea. These sites may track their own visitors and micro-target advertising with the same level of precision as a data-hungry firm like Facebook in exchange for installing a free pixel on their site.
Facebook (naturally) demands that this data be supplied with it in exchange for giving these sites the ability to track every pageview, purchase, search query, and more, much more. When a website visitor has a Facebook account, this offsite data is simply merged with whatever Facebook already knows about that individual. If they don’t have a Facebook account, the corporation nevertheless obtains their information and uses it to develop a “shadow profile” of them. These are the kinds of shady tactics that Mozilla’s team wants to investigate with this study, and if you use Firefox, you can help them out.
Mozilla worked up with Markup reporters to gather information about Facebook tracking using Mozilla Rally, a free browser extension that collects data given out by Facebook’s pixels as you browse the web. Aside from that, the plugin records the amount of time spent on various online pages, the URLs visited by the browser, and more. In its introduction, Mozilla was eager to point out that the only data exported by the extension will be de-identified and not shared with anybody other than the Markup’s reporters.