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Facebook, Nielsen will soon track your TV habits on tablets, smartphones

Attempting to get a better grasp on how many television shows consumers are watching on mobile devices, the Nielsen company is working with Facebook in order to track television viewing habits of U.S. consumers. According to representatives of the social network, if you have logged into Facebook on a mobile device, Facebook uses tracking cookies to match up information about a watched video with age and gender information about the Facebook user. Detailed by the Los Angeles Times, the tracking collaboration should kick off as the Fall 2014 television season goes into full swing.

While privacy advocates aren’t thrilled at this collaboration, the two companies are keeping the data anonymous be using a double-blind study. Basically, Nielsen assigns numbers to the names of television shows and supplies those to Facebook. Facebook isn’t aware of which numbers correspond to which shows. In return, Facebook returns an aggregate of the age and gender of all Facebook users that watched a specific television show. Beyond that, there’s no specific identifying information that’s provided by Facebook and the study won’t influence any type of online advertising that’s displayed within the Facebook feed.

Speaking about the new tracking program, a Facebook representative said “We have worked with Nielsen under strong privacy principles. We don’t believe that audience measurement systems should be used to adjust targeting; they should only be used for measurement. This protects the privacy of people viewing ads and ensures that both advertisers and publishers have the same information about the audiences.”

Nielsen released a similar statement which reads “Nielsen takes nothing more seriously than consumer privacy and we have a well-established reputation for protecting privacy spanning several decades. Consumer privacy is a top priority for us and we work with leading privacy advocates to ensure our products meet or exceed industry privacy standards.”

Assuming the data collection process is successful, Nielsen will have a much better grasp of which shows are being consumed on tablets and smartphones as well as when those shows are consumed. Using this data, advertisers will be able to better target the age and gender of the majority of mobile watchers when commercials are presented at breaks within an episode.

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