What is Meta Pixel and What Does it Know About Me?

by | Aug 23, 2022 | Blog | 0 comments

The Meta Pixel is a piece of software that Meta Platforms, Inc. (“Meta”), the parent company of Facebook, uses to monitor and monetize individuals’ activities on the Internet. The Pixel, which Meta has used and refined since 2013, is a snippet of code embedded on a third-party website that tracks a user’s activity as she navigates through that website, purchasing products and services, reading news articles, joining political groups, or researching medical treatment options.[1] Indeed, Meta Pixel is employed broadly across every corner of today’s Internet, tracking and logging user activities on millions of websites, including 30% of the top 80,000 most popular websites.[2]

Meta promotes the Pixel to website proprietors as a mechanism to advance their own aims. The Pixel “allows you to measure the effectiveness of your advertising by understanding the actions people take on your website,” by, e.g., “[m]ak[ing] sure your ads are shown to the right people,” “[d]riv[ing] more sales,” and “[m]easur[ing] the results of your ads.”[3] No money changes hands when a website decides to adopt the Pixel technology; instead, the two parties trade in private information. The website receives free analytics, and Meta receives sensitive data to add to its valuable collection.

Although Meta Pixel collects data even from people without Facebook or Instagram accounts, its tracking power is greater for those with accounts. When a Facebook or Instagram user is logged in to their account(s) on a browser, the browser will send Meta’s cookie data on the user’s other web activity straight to Meta, linking that activity trail with the user’s unique ID, which is itself already associated with everything the user has put on her Facebook or Instagram account—name, hometown, age, birthday, places which she has visited, people with whom she interacts, and, of course, photos. Even if the user is not logged in to an account, or is using a browser that blocks Meta cookies, Meta’s “Advanced Matching Parameters” allows the website to use other biographical information that the user enters to connect his activity to a corresponding Facebook or Instagram account.[4]

Meta’s market power and tracking practices have attracted the scrutiny of regulators in the United States and worldwide, but this does not mean that it is now adequately policed. Not nearly. Meta continues to collect information about your web activity, and both the company and its third-party website partners attempt to shield themselves from liability with heavily lawyered Terms of Service, Privacy Policies, mandatory arbitration clauses, and class action waivers.    

Lowey Dannenberg is experienced in consumers’ rights privacy litigation and has established an impressive record of identifying unlawful privacy violations and obtaining recovery. Even the broadest Terms of Service cannot excuse all manner of data collection, for example when Meta receives personal health information or tracks users’ video views without obtaining standalone consent. Lowey attorneys can help you evaulate whether your digital privacy rights have been violated. Recent investigations into the potential improper sharing of video data through Meta Pixel include:

Contact us using the form below or by email investigations@lowey.com for more information about these investigations or any other suspected privacy violations.

[1] See History of Facebook Ad Strategy, Matchnode, https://www.matchnode.com/blog/history-of-facebook-ad-strategy/.

[2] Aaron Sankin & Surya Mattu, The High Privacy Cost of a “Free” Website, The Markup (Sept. 20, 2022), https://themarkup.org/blacklight/2020/09/22/blacklight-tracking-advertisers-digital-privacy-sensitive-websites.

[3] About Meta Pixel, Meta Business Help Center, https://www.facebook.com/business/help/742478679120153?id=1205376682832142.

[4] See History of Facebook Ad Strategy, supra note 1.