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Yo, mall rats: Facebook and Cisco in Wi-Fi hookup to track your retail, social life

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Facebook just got into the consensual Wi-Fi data-pumping game after it inked a deal with networking giant Cisco that will allow businesses to better target people's shopping and social habits.

The free content ad network will play swapsies with its users by getting them to agree to hand over their "customer preferences and demographics" in exchange for access to a "free" wireless network on their mobile devices while, for example, buying goods in stores.

Cisco described the data-mining strategy as a "connected mobile experience" (CMX) for customers who access Facebook Wi-Fi, which is being tested in shops, hotel, restaurants and other public areas around the world apparently.

It added:

This solution, coined CMX for Facebook Wi-Fi, helps improve the consumer experience, provides a quick and simple way for consumers to access Wi-Fi by checking in on Facebook, and gives businesses more opportunities to connect with their customers.

CMX for Facebook Wi-Fi also provides businesses with more likes and check-ins for their Facebook Page, increasing the demographic data on their customers, so they can better serve them.

The system will prompt consumers to allow Facebook to share their data with third parties with the information – such as age, gender and geo-location – being "aggregated anonymously", Cisco claimed.

The company, which did not disclose financial terms of the deal it had struck with the Mark Zuckerberg-run outfit, said the Wi-Fi network would allow businesses to have a better insight into their customers, which in turn will help them do a better job with targeted ads.

"Driving more check-ins through Facebook Wi-Fi will also increase a business's brand exposure, by increasing the number of stories generated about them, and will make businesses more discoverable in Facebook's Graph Search," added Cisco.

At the launch of Facebook's Graph Search earlier this year, Zuck was careful not to immediately plaster it in ad goo. But it's clear now that – just like Google's search engine being married to its faltering social network Google+ – Facebook is finally stepping into the big league with its push to make ever more money from advertisers.

Earlier this week, Facebook said it was making the network more searchable than it has ever been, after it confirmed that it was in the process of allowing users to dig much deeper into a "friend's" past posts. ®

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