In the midst of the Facebook data scandal, the focus has been on privacy and the extraordinary access to users’ personal data that the company has given third parties. Many of these third parties are advertisers who have made it their mission to get you to buy what you see online.
We all know by now that Facebook shows ads to people based on several factors, including pages you (and your friends) like, keywords in your profile, places you check into using the site and other barometers. Not only is this how a classic social network works, it is also how much of the digital economy functions today.
The other companies and sites that make up this digital economy all have a vested interest in gleaning your personal information. User behavior plays a huge role in this, as well.
“When you share information like your phone number or email address with a business, they may add it to a customer list that can be matched to your Facebook profile,” Facebook says on its ad preferences page.
Facebook also uses your location to decide which ads it shows you based on advertisers trying to reach people in or near a specific place. That means the IP address on the computer or mobile device you’re logged onto along with GPS and other location services you use allow them to hone in on where you are. But there’s more.
Almost every time you sign up for a store loyalty program, or even purchase items at retailers, these businesses are able to get a new piece of info from you that is added to the pot of information they have on you. But what if you could keep certain ads from targeting you?
The way to do this is to tweak the controls at two areas on the site: Your Ad Preferences and your Ad Settings.
- Click at the top right of any Facebook page and go to Settings.
This will bring you to your General Account Settings page. In the left-side rail, find the Ads topic and click it.When you do, this what you’ll see.
Next you will see a page called Your Ad Preferences, which is the central hub for everything to know about how Facebook lets advertisers target you. This page can also be accessed by clicking on facebook.com/ads/preferences, you’ll see a grid showing your advertising dossier — what companies you’ve interacted with and what your interests are.
If you click on “Interests,” it will show you a grid comprised of the things you have clicked recently or routinely. In my case, because I had visited TripAdvisor days ago, I saw ads in my News Feed about TripAdvisor and vacations. You can delete these interests (and the associated Facebook ads) by hovering your cursor over the picture and clicking “Remove.”
As you click on the boxes, the ads will be removed and you will be in the process, limiting certain advertisers from targeting you. Of course, you will still see advertising in your New Feed, because the social networking site is still pulling information from your friends to find out how to appeal to you.
Next you’ll want to go back to the preferences page, and click on Your Information. Here you can toggle on or off certain identifiers about you that allow advertisers to find you. These identifiers are what school you graduated from, where you work and even your relationship status. Toggle the buttons off to restrict advertisers from using this info.
Once you’ve completed those steps, you’ll have more control over what you see on Facebook.
The social networking site is going through some pains right now and deservedly so, and we’re keeping a close eye on how they’re addressing the privacy issues facing them in hopes that one day maintaining a level of privacy comfortable for each user will be a piece of cake. Until then, users must take the initiative to protect themselves with the tools Facebook has given them.