If you’ve logged in to Facebook in the past few days, you may have noticed a message from Facebook about ads. If you haven’t taken the time to read it or aren’t sure why you should care, you may want to reconsider.
Essentially, Facebook is now going to use your app and web browsing history to start serving up targeted ads. Indeed, you may have noticed this happening already as you surf the web, since Facebook is not the only company using this method, sometimes known as online behavioral advertising.
According to an article on VentureBeat yesterday,
Facebook can’t capture data about you visiting just any site, only those that have partnered with it. Basically, any site that has a “like” button (such as this one) or that permits you to log in with your Facebook credentials is a Facebook partner. And by virtue of that fact the site will store data about your visit in your browser, which can later be read by Facebook. It makes no difference whether or not you click a “like” button while you’re at the site.
For Facebook Business Page owners, these changes can help ensure that the business’ ads reach their preferred target audience. But for individual Facebook users, all of this targeting can seem a bit intrusive. If it seems like someone is following you around watching everything you’re doing, you’re right. Checking out the latest new gadgets on BestBuy? Click on a specific item and you may find that item following you around the internet – including on Facebook, where you’ll see an ad for the exact product you viewed yesterday.
Of course, Facebook views the changes it is making to its ads as favorable to Facebook users. After all, if you’re going to receive ads, you might as well receive ads related to things you’re actually interested in, right?
The good thing about the recent changes for individual Facebook users is that you now have an opportunity to control what kinds of ads you’re seeing. Or at least that is how Facebook is spinning it. In actuality, you now have an obligation to take affirmative action if you don’t want to be bombarded with advertising and if you don't want your browsing and app habits to affect the ads you see. There are several things you'll want to consider doing to prevent against this.
First, when you see an ad on Facebook, click on the arrow in the upper right hand corner of the ad to stop receiving ads from specific advertisers, or to update your preferences to stop receiving certain types of ads.
But be aware that according to Facebook, “The number of ads you see won’t change, but because we’ll know more about what you like, they’ll be more relevant.”
Facebook also concedes that you’ll still see ads that won’t be relevant to you if the business purchasing the ad wants to “reach a broad, non-specific audience; for example, everyone in your town.”
If you read Facebook’s full post about the ads changes, you’ll find out that:
If you don’t want us to use the websites and apps you use to show you more relevant ads, we won’t. You can opt out of this type of ad targeting in your web browser using the industry-standard Digital Advertising Alliance opt out, and on your mobile devices using the controls that iOS and Android provide.
But if you just view their video, you'll notice it doesn’t mention the opt out - it only discusses controlling your ad preferences.
If you decide you do want to opt out, you’ll need to opt out on every browser and every device you use to access the internet to ensure that your opt out covers all of your internet use.
To opt out using your browser, go to the opt out link above and go to either the Companies Customizing Ads for your Browser or All Participating Companies tabs and check the box next to Facebook, Inc. (and any other companies that you don’t want using online behavioral advertising). You’ll need to disable any ad-blocking for the page to complete the opt-outs.
On iOs, you’ll need to enable Restrictions and then go to Settings > General > Restrictions > Advertising and set Limit Ad Tracking to on.
On Android, go to Settings > Accounts > Google > Ads and check Opt out of internet-based ads.
Be aware that even taking these steps, you will not be able to prevent Facebook or other sites from collecting information about your browsing data; you will only be able to prevent them from using that data for targeted advertising purposes. To block sites from collecting browsing history, you’ll need a browser plug-in that prevents the tracking. The Venture Beat article mentioned above includes some recommendations.