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Facebook tests new features, expands ad tracking program

The social network tests two new features for a user's news feed and deploys a new way to track ads.

Facebook is testing a couple of new features that, as usual, some people may like and others not so much.

The two features would add notices of upcoming events and recently released albums to a user's news feed, according to The Next Web.

The upcoming events feature would suggest nearby events. But these would be events that you wouldn't necessarily have been invited to join, revealed blog site AllFacebook. This is also a follow-up to the upcoming concerts feature that the social network started testing last month.

The recently released albums feature would list new albums by artists that you heard through Spotify, one of several music services that Facebook integrated into its network last year. Clicking on the album would stream its music through Spotify, according to Inside Facebook.

Facebook faces a potential user backlash anytime it rolls out a new feature, which is why initial testing among a small group is always a good idea. If widely implemented, upcoming events and recently-released albums could be useful -- as long as they can also easily be turned off by anyone who finds them intrusive.

The social network has also been busy on the advertising front.

Facebook just expanded a new ad-tracking program known as "View Tags," which lets advertisers use cookies to see who's viewing their ads. Advertisers can drop the necessary code into their Marketplace ads and Premium self-service ads to enable the tracking.

Facebook "quietly" started testing the View Tags program a year ago with a select group of advertisers, according to TechCrunch. The initial testing was done on a small scale, likely due to concerns over privacy issues and performance problems. The program grew over the summer and is now available on a wider scale.

View Tags is certainly a boon to advertisers. Using cookies to track a user's reaction to an ad is more effective than tracking clicks as advertisers can then tell if the person actually buys the product.

But what about users concerned over their privacy? Facebook does impose certain requirements on companies that use the cookies.

Advertisers using View Tags must be audited to make sure their code doesn't capture any personal information about the user. Other requirements are listed at the bottom of the View Tags section on Facebook's Ad Group page.

As always, Facebook is caught between the need to drag in more ad revenue while trying not to violate the privacy of its users. But clearly View Tags can help advertisers and thereby Facebook get more bang for the buck.

CNET contacted Facebook for comment on its testing of the new features and on View Tags and will update the story if we receive any information.