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The Security of Facebook Shops and How it Will Affect Your Privacy

The world of e-commerce changes just as rapidly as the platforms that support it. Social media, as the most influential of e-commerce tools, is one of the primary drivers of these changes, and social media giant Facebook just made a big announcement.

By integrating Facebook shops into Whatsapp and Facebook Marketplace, Facebook is looking to push its e-commerce presence into more of its properties and reach more users as a result. This could be beneficial for the small businesses using the platform to sell. However, Facebook has had privacy problems in the past.

So what will this new Facebook Shops announcement mean for your data privacy? And how can you make sure your data is secure?
This article will explore these questions and more so that you can navigate your online shopping with confidence.

What’s going on with Facebook Shops?

First, let’s discuss what’s going on with Facebook Shops.

Rolled out during the COVID-19 pandemic, Facebook Shops intended to help small businesses create an accessible online presence for marketing and selling their goods. The idea was to make Facebook a one-stop shop for all a user’s needs, allowing them to conveniently buy after finding an item on the platform.

Now, Facebook Shops is coming to Whatsapp in several countries and to Facebook Marketplace in the U.S. In addition, Facebook Shops is making some changes to its features.

Among these changes are personalized advertisements that will be crafted uniquely to each user’s shopping data. This means that Facebook will assess your shopping behaviors through analytic algorithms and offer product recommendations tailored specifically to you. 

Facebook Shops is also launching a visual search feature. This will allow a user on Instagram to explore products on Facebook Shops based on similarities in imagery. Users can also use photos from their camera roll to search for products visually. 

And last but not least, Facebook Shops is pushing the envelope for e-commerce experiences by promoting augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) integration. Vendors will be able to create virtual shopping experiences that give users a new level of immersion from online buying. Shoppers, then, will be able to virtually try on clothing items or see how a decorative item looks in their space. 

Image Source: Neowin

All of these feature updates come out of a desire for Facebook to turn its Shops offering into a self-service web portal for vendors and customers alike, collating all the needs of an online shopping experience in a single platform. Such functionality builds value because it can make online ordering easier and provide a better overall customer experience. 

However, all these features bring up data privacy concerns for a company that already has a troubled relationship with information security.

How the announcement will affect your privacy

The security of Facebook Shops has been called into question in light of this new feature announcement. After all, all this new functionality depends on user data, and Facebook is already in hot water when it comes to how much data it collects and shares. 

Its recent Whatsapp policies, for example, have invited backlash due to the extensive data the app collects without giving users much of an opportunity to opt out. Phone number and analytics sharing are activated by default, and users only had 30 days to opt-out of the new data collection measures. 

To many Whatsapp users, these changes came as a betrayal. The platform was known for its data security and privacy practices, featuring widespread end-to-end encryption. Now, however, Whatsapp and Facebook users will have even more data collection concerns to worry about. 

Facebook Shops’ new features require the use of all kinds of data, from credit card information to biometrics like face and body imagery. This data is necessary for the kind of immersive AR and VR experiences Facebook has planned. But that only makes the platform more liable for data breaches. 

In today’s world, cyber-attacks are on the rise. With the breadth of Facebook Shops combined with significant data packages needed to give Shops, these features will make shopper data more valuable. Whatsapp already collects information like contacts, purchase history, and identifiers. This information might be needed to help businesses reach out to target audiences through big data analytics, but it also puts customer privacy at risk. 

Now, there are even more data privacy considerations to think about for users of Whatsapp, Instagram, Facebook Marketplace, and every other manifestation of Facebook’s holdings. Here’s what the changes mean for your privacy:

  • Lack of Whatsapp privacy opt-out means Shops integration will use your data.
  • Visual Search functionality will require access to your camera roll.
  • More users and data make Facebook Shops more of a target for cybercriminals.
  • AR and VR experiences will create different methods of data collection and online interaction.
  • Shops integration across apps means more data connecting your app accounts and creating a more comprehensive portfolio of your personal information.

Do all these factors mean Facebook Shops or the Facebook app family are unsafe to use? 

Not necessarily. Whatsapp still encrypts messages end-to-end and gathered information may do little else but help small businesses show you products you might like. 

However, it’s important to keep these changes in mind as you navigate your own data security while online shopping.

Staying safe while shopping online

Just about every app and website these days collect some data. That doesn’t mean you need to go without online shopping. Instead, there are a few strategies you should employ when using the internet to keep your data private. 

These strategies include:

  • Use a VPN.
  • Look for the padlock icon in the URL bar. 
  • Read seller and product reviews.
  • Use strong passwords.
  • Don’t click suspicious links or fall for too-good-to-be-true deals.

No matter what Facebook’s data collection policies are, these safety measures are always a good bet when shopping online. Then, read through privacy and data collection policies to ensure that nothing you don’t want to be collected is tracked. 

These updates to Facebook Shops might just be a big win for small online vendors, but take care to protect your information all the same. When it comes to shopping online, it’s up to you to stay educated and safe. 

Amanda Winstead
A writer from the Portland area in the United States with a background in communications and a passion for telling stories. Along with writing she enjoys traveling, reading, working out, and going to concerts. If you want to follow her writing journey, or even just say hi you can find her on Twitter.

The Security of Facebook Shops and How it Will Affect Your Privacy Reviewed by Mili Ponce on Thursday, August 12, 2021 Rating: 5
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