Facebook claims it wants to offer users a better advertising experience. To do so, the social network will use your Web browsing history to send you targeted ads on Facebook. Previously, the company only used information garnered from what you “liked” to attract advertisements for products and services that might interest you. Facebook’s new policy takes targeted advertising to the next level, but it also raises privacy concerns.
As a result of the new policy, Facebook will no longer follow the code of honor established in the do-not-track setting in Web browsers. The tech industry is divided into two camps on the do-not-track policy: Neither Yahoo nor Google honors the policy, but Twitter and Pintrest do. Now, Facebook has joined ranks with those who don’t, and there is sure to be a huge backlash because of it.
If nothing else, Facebook has learned about damage control from its previous efforts to pry into its users’ private data. In the announcement, Facebook emphasizes that it won’t share your Web browser data or app usage history with advertisers unless you want it to. Users who don’t want their Internet searches and app usage data bandied about between Facebook and advertisers can head to the Digital Advertising Alliance opt-out page to protect their information. If you use the Android or iOS Facebook app, you can also change your settings to disable ad tracking.
In addition to giving users an out, the social network also handed over ad preferences to its users. For example, if you really, really hate getting ads from Match.com, you can tell Facebook to never show you that kind of ad ever again. The new ad preferences tool lets users eliminate categories of supposed interest, such as technology, hiking, dating, etc., if they don’t actually like ads from that specific category. You can even add categories of interest if you truly want Facebook to send you tons of tempting ads.
According to Ad Age, targeted ads based on browsing history will have the blue Digital Advertising Alliance’s “AdChoices” logo stamped in a corner. When you click on the icon, you’ll be able to see a drop-down menu with an explanation of why that particular ad is being displayed and how to stop it from happening. Facebook is at least giving users a choice in the matter, but chances are, most Facebook users won’t even notice the changes, and if they do, they probably won’t change their settings to protect their data (that’s at least what Facebook is hoping for). It is, after all, a long process, and if you’re already letting Google and Yahoo track you, is it really any different?