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Facebook contemplates tracking your every move

Did you hover over an ad or view specific parts of the News Feed on your smartphone? The social network might start collecting this type of data to improve its products.

Jennifer Van Grove Former Senior Writer / News
Jennifer Van Grove covered the social beat for CNET. She loves Boo the dog, CrossFit, and eating vegan. Her jokes are often in poor taste, but her articles are not.
Jennifer Van Grove
2 min read
Screenshot/Jennifer Van Grove/CNET

Facebook is testing new Web and mobile tracking methods to better understand member behavior and determine things such as how long people hover over various types of content. The company is mulling whether to incorporate such data collection practices on a broader scale, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

The social network ultimately aims to enhance its existing collection of demographic and behavioral data on members, and would use the additional information to improve its products, Ken Rudin, Facebook's head of analytics, told the Journal.

Specifically, Facebook wants to know when your cursor hovers over an advertisement and when you're viewing various parts of the News Feed on your smartphone, Rudin said.

"Like most websites, we run numerous tests at any given time to ensure that we're creating the best experience possible for people on Facebook. These experiments look at aggregate trends of how people interact with the site to inform future product decisions," a company spokesperson told CNET. "We do not share this information with anyone outside of Facebook and we are not using this information to target ads."

The pre-click data could help Facebook boost its blooming native advertising business by improving how and when it shows ads to members on desktop or mobile. And marketers and advertisers will surely salivate over any new metrics that could help them determine a person's intent. Facebook's 1.15 billion members, however, may not be too keen on the idea of the social network tracking their less explicit behaviors, even if it is in aggregate.

Rudin said the company will likely determine how it wants to proceed "in a couple of months."

Update, 4:46 p.m. PT: With comment from Facebook.