Gift card service gives Facebook more user data

In its latest effort to be all things to all people – and make some cash at the same time – Facebook’s launched a gift card system.

It’s a real card, loaded with money, which arrives in the mail. When a person gets another gift, the money’s automatically added to their existing card.

Rather oddly, though, the scheme covers just four retailers right now: Jamba Juice, Olive Garden, Sephora and Target.  

“Your card can hold multiple gift balances, and each balance is dedicated to the retailer associated with the gift. For example, you might have gift balances of $100 at Sephora, $75 at Target, $50 at Olive Garden, and $8.25 at Jamba Juice,” says the company in a blog.

“You can view your gift balances in your account settings on Facebook from your phone or desktop. Facebook will let you know when balances change by sending a real-time notification to your phone.”

The service is being rolled out gradually to users in the US only. It’s not to be confused with Facebook Gifts, which rolled out last September, offering users tthe opportunity to send real gifts via mail order to their friends.

Like that service, though, it has one big advantage for the company that might not be obvious. When a person wants to send a gift card to a Facebook friend, it goes by mail, giving Facebook a great opportunity to collect the recipient’s real-world address. User data, lovely, lovely user data…