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Facebook conversations can now impact Nielsen’s TV ratings

Updated Jan 22nd, 2016 3:40PM EST

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Before you get too alarmed though, Facebook won’t simply go ahead and disclose the private chats you have on Facebook with third parties. Instead, an agreement with Nielsen will allow the company to determine how often specific movies and television shows are discussed in conversations on Facebook, and whether those conversations are positive or negative.

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While Nielsen might not care about your sexting habits for the time being, it’s certainly interesting in learning how often people recommend movies or TV shows to their friends, and it will use that data to measure “Social Content Ratings.” Facebook will run queries on Nielsen’s behalf and, according to Facebook, all information it shares will be anonymized to ensure that it cannot be traced back to users.

Still, this could be considered by some to be an invasion of privacy.

“Nielsen is going to start tracking discussions that people have about TV on Facebook with their family and friends, even if that discussion isn’t marked as ‘public,’” Re/code says of the matter, presenting it as a great thing for the evolution of TV content. And it might very well be.

So, does it mean that every single word in our existing and future private conversations on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp will be anonymized and sold to businesses? Say you mention iPhone, Coke and McDonald’s – or any other brands or products – when talking to your friends and family, and you share your feelings about them. Facebook might ultimately compile all that data and sell it to any company that wants it.

1/22: Updated to clarify that Facebook Messenger is not a part of the Nielsen program, and to clarify that Nielsen does not have direct access to any private Facebook conversations.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.