Honda Is Using Facebook to Find Owners of Recalled Vehicles

Facebook's Custom Audiences feature is helping Honda track down vehicle owners affected by the Takata airbag recall.

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LOIC VENANCE—AFP/Getty Images

Between articles about politics, and blocking family members from seeing the details of your personal life, and cat picture memes, Facebook is one of the biggest time wasters of modern life. It's also full of vast amounts of data about the people who use it. Businesses spend big bucks on advertising targeted toward the users most likely to be interested in their products or services. Automotive News reports that Honda is using Facebook's data-mining capabilities in a slightly different way: To find owners of vehicles affected by the Takata airbag recall.

Honda is using Facebook's Custom Audiences feature to use its database of recalled vehicles to find their owners on social media. Personal information, such as names and email addresses, is cross-referenced with Facebook's personal data to find matches between the databases. The matched data are then hashed (encrypted), then uploaded to Facebook, which then creates a Custom Audience through which Honda can reach owners through social media with targeted advertising.

Neither Honda nor Facebook may dig through each other's databases openly to add to their treasure troves of personal information. Additionally, the hashed database that is uploaded to Facebook is designed specifically to prevent any attempts to mine the personal information of Honda owners, or any other business using this feature. This database is then deleted after the Custom Audience is created.

Honda has good reasons for taking such extensive measures to reach the owners of recalled vehicles. Out of 18 fatalities attributed to faulty Takata airbags, 17 occurred in Hondas. The vast majority of vehicles recalled for faulty airbags has yet to be fixed, so Honda seems to be going the extra mile to make its customers aware that their cars have been recalled and to urge them to schedule the necessary repairs.

UPDATE: Chris Martin, Manager of Regulatory, Legal and New Technology Communications at American Honda, reached out to me on Twitter with a correction on the number of Hondas repaired so far under the recall.