USA Today graphic about Facebook's Privacy Policy

Click the graphic above for the interactive tour of what Facebook collects and how they use it. Credit: USA Today

As we get closer to the end of the month you’re likely to hear a lot about how Google will be connecting your data after March 1. The truth is, they already have this data about you and are just making it available to other Google applications. They currently have separate privacy policies for each service,, and keep your information seperated from each service (for instance while they had your Google search history, and they had your Youtube video’s watched history, they weren’t linking that information together). As of March 1, if you are signed into your Google account, that information will be linked, so they will know that person a that watched this video is the same person that performed this search. If you’re uncomfortable with that, you can either choose to use the services logged out or clear your history. They make it quite simple at google.com/history (where they also give you the option to disable this tracking.

Facebook’s efforts are no more nefarious, but they are better disguised and more “mysterious” to the average user. They also don’t give you the option to see what they know about you, to delete what they know about you, or to tell them to not track your activity. Essentially, if you’re logged into Facebook while you browse the web (even if you don’t have Facebook open) – they’re logging your activity. You know those “like us on Facebook” boxes you see all over sites? In addition to give you an easy way to like the site you’re visiting, it allows Facebook to track which of their users are on the site – even if that visitor doesn’t click the like box. The USA Today produced an excellent interactive graphic explaining exactly what Facebook does and doesn’t know about you. I encourage you to check it out here: USA Today.

What does Facebook do with all that data? Officially, the same thing Google does: they use it to understand what you’re interested in and serve you ads relevant to your interests. More relevant ads to you results in more clicks and more revenue for them.

What do you think? Are you OK with how Facebook does it? How about Google? Will it change any of your online habits?