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Now Facebook Wants to Know Where You Buy Your Toothpaste

Millie Dent

As if it didn’t have enough information on you already, Facebook now wants to know about any business or store you set foot in.

Facebook is sending out free Bluetooth beacon devices to any U.S. business that requests one. Starting Monday, once a business sets up a beacon, it can detect when a Facebook user on a smartphone is within a set distance.

While reassuring users that the system doesn’t allow businesses to collect any information from people or their phone or change the kind of location information it receives, Facebook can still track which users are visiting what business. Facebook will be able to collect more data than ever before on individuals.

Related: How Facebook Is Moving into Your Workspace

The system allows businesses to send content and information from or about the business to the newsfeed on a person’s smartphone when they are nearby. Businesses will even be able to send customized welcome messages. It’d be a dumb opportunity for a business to pass by, given the 1.3 billion global users of Facebook.

A user’s location is determined using cellular networks, Wi-Fi, GPS and Facebook Bluetooth beacons. The company has yet to announce when the system will be available in other parts of the world.

Facebook has been conducting a trial of the system in New York since the beginning of the year, with more than 100 businesses taking part. The system currently only works with Apple devices, but a version that supports Google’s Android operating system is in the works. Users will have the ability to turn the “place tips” on or off.

The beacon device is a response to small businesses wanting to get more value from Facebook, its VP for small and medium businesses, Dan Levy, told Fortune. The company will give priority to small businesses with active and engaging Facebook pages.

Related: Facebook Wants Your Health Status 

Interestingly enough, Facebook doesn’t seem to have a strategy – yet – for place tips to allow small businesses to push out ads to users. But it’s probably only a matter of time.

Apple is also working on a tracking device, called iBeacon, which was introduced at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in 2013. The new system works like Facebook’s, but the iBeacon is incorporated into iOS apps.  

Businesses around the world, including select McDonald’s and shops on London’s Regent Street, are testing the device out. McDonald’s gave special deals to customers for chicken nuggets as they entered the premise. The fast-food chain says the gimmick caused a 7.5% increase in nugget sales in the 26 locations involved.

You can run, but more and more, you can’t hide from Facebook.

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