Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (AP/Jeff Chiu)

Facebook's faux transparency: The company is rolling out a new ad plan while digging deeper into user data

Facebook is giving folks more control over which ads they'll get, while also plowing deeper into user data


Sarah Gray
June 12, 2014 9:22PM (UTC)

Today you may have received a notification from Facebook that said: "We're improving ads based on apps and sites you use, and giving you control. Learn more." Clicking on that notification probably brought you to this video:

Facebook has long been sharing user info with advertisers based on on what you might "like" on Facebook, list as an interest or click on your newsfeed, according to The Verge. And now, they're actually notifying users about the process.

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It is part of new Facebook advertising features. Next week, users will be able to click a drop-down menu on a particular advertisement and see why you are targeted with that particular ad. Users will also be able to view their entire "ad preferences" and make alterations to them. Seems pretty great, right? After all, Facebook did say they are "giving you control."

Well, yes and no. The New York Times explains:

"Facebook’s move also comes as the Federal Trade Commission and the White House have called on Congress to pass legislation that would better protect consumers’ private data, including requiring companies to give people more control over the digital files collected on them.

"It is unclear how privacy advocates and public officials will react to Facebook’s efforts to provide more clarity about how its ads work. The F.T.C., which was briefed on the company’s intentions, had no immediate comment. Users will start seeing the changes within the next few weeks.

"Although Facebook will now give its users a way to modify the customer profiles that drive the ads they see, users can’t completely get rid of ads. If people were to delete everything Facebook had collected about them, they would simply see generic pitches. Nor it is clear what level of detail a user can control."

At the end of the day, our "control" really just helps the company learn more about us, and target us with more specific ads. You know, because you really wanted Facebook to help you buy a new TV, or suggest a new brand. The move is disingenuous and creepy. And while there is the possibility of changing ads to not fit who you are, you are still being bombarded with ads -- for stuff you don't even like. Basically, users are feeding this tech giant more information so they can make money under the guise of user control.

To top it all off, Facebook also announced that it was going to start using more than just "likes" and other Facebook activity, it is also going to dig into Web browser and smartphone data to help target ads. According to The Verge, Facebook has had this data for a while, but was mainly using it for security purposes.

Users can opt out of this data sharing, but they'll have to visit the Digital Advertising Alliance on their computers, and adjust settings on their smartphones.

h/t The Verge, The New York Times

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Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email sgray@salon.com.

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