Consumer Tips: Facebook Privacy Guide — How to Opt Out of Nielsen Research done via Facebook


FAQ: I just heard that Facebook users can have their viewing habits tracked by Nielsen when they watch TV on their mobiles or tablets. Is this true? How do I get out of this?


Yes, this is true. If you are a Facebook user, unless you have actively opted out of the Nielsen tracking, Nielsen can track your clicks and views for its online measurement research. Nielsen/Facebook have already been tracking online advertising that people see, beginning in 2009/2010. Going forward, the Facebook/Nielsen tracking will also measure your TV viewing on mobiles and tablets. The Nielsen/Facebook tracking occurs while you are logged in to Facebook.

Facebook states in its Help Page for this issue that the tracking of your habits for Nielsen is anonymous and aggregate. Actually, true anonymity is genuinely difficult to accomplish and may be impossible to guarantee at times. This sort of digital tracking is better understood as this: your information is de-identified, and grouped (or aggregated) with the data of many other people. Your data is no longer supposed to be personally identifiable through the use of de-identifying techniques. (More about that later, see Additional Details.) Nevertheless, it is not necessary to be tracked in this manner, and some people object to it. You can opt out of this tracking/measurement.


How to opt out:

Opting out of Nielsen tracking will stop the tracking whether you have logged out of Facebook or not. (We recommend logging out after each Facebook session, see more about this below.)

1. Go to the “Nielsen Online” Privacy Policy

2. Scroll down to the Opting Out section. A screenshot of what this looks like is below.

  Nielsen opt out link

3. Ensure that your mobile device or laptop is set to accept third party cookies.You will typically find this control in your device or browser settings.

4. Click the opt out link. If you are successful, you will see a screen noting that an opt-out cookie has been downloaded. (See screen shot below).

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 11.21.52 AM

Why it’s important to log out of Facebook

When you exit Facebook, log out. That will stop Nielsen from tracking your viewing habits after log out, and it will also stop other types of Facebook tracking of your online activities. Many Facebook users just close their Facebook window or tab without logging out, and then go about doing other things online. If staying out of the tracking loop matters to you, log out each time you exit Facebook at a minimum. To stop Nielsen tracking while you are on Facebook, also download the Nielsen opt out cookie as discussed in the steps above.

If you want to stop even more online tracking, you can take the next step and download opt out cookies for nearly a hundred different companies at NAI is an industry self-regulatory program that offers online tracking opt outs for consumers at a one-stop-web site. The Firefox web browser has many tools that will allow you to manage your cookies. That way, you can keep your opt out cookies but delete the ones you don’t want. Automating that process is helpful so that you don’t have to think about cookies each time you browse the web.


A few notes about the opt out:

  • Repeat the opt-out process for all of your connected devices that you use for Facebook and online browsing.


Additional details about how Facebook/Nielsen tracking works:

  • MediaPost has a good article about the technical aspects of how the new Nielsen online TV tracking will work via Facebook.
  • Here is what Nielsen Online says about its tracking/research process. This material is excerpted from its privacy policy, which can be read in full on its web site:

“Here’s how it works: Advertisers tag their ads and then place them on their chosen sites around the web. When the ads are displayed, the tags make a call to a data provider, which then searches its own user database to find the age and gender that it has on file for that member. This age and gender information is sent back to Nielsen in an aggregated form. Nielsen is then able to report to the advertisers the age groups and gender of users to whom their ads for a particular campaign were displayed. A sample report might be “the ad was viewed by 5 million females between the ages 24-30.” (As of July 17, 2014.)


Related Posts:

You can read more of our Facebook Privacy Guide FAQs here: WPF’s Facebook Privacy Guide FAQs

You can read our search engine privacy tips here. Some of the tips are good adjuncts to tracking discussion.