Facebook’s latest foray into your private life

Jun 17, 2014

Online privacy: how much do we deserve? How much should we have? These are questions that many Americans have wondered in the past year, especially as more information about privacy violations make their way to the general public.

The latest outcry is over Facebook’s new ad policy. Facebook announced recently that it plans to give users the ability to see the files of likes and interests, information the mega social platform keeps on each person. Besides seeing the information, you’ll also have the chance to change, add or delete information in those files. If you don’t like the ads that keep popping up on your home feed, you can tell Facebook what marketing messages you’d rather see.

While this change seems like a small bout of freedom for those suffering under falsely targeted ads, Facebook simultaneously announced that it would be adding more details to those files of likes and interests, and, this time, the information is based on the websites you visit and the apps you download. You’ll have the option to opt out of “extended tracking,” but you’ll need to go to a specific website (link here) and then adjust your smartphone settings to do it.

As you’d imagine, the extended tracking change to Facebook fired up privacy advocates who stated that this practice will allow Facebook to sell more products to them.

Except, detailed tracking is a common enough practice in today’s World Wide Web. Google, Yahoo and a host of other smaller companies track information on users’ activities in an effort to successfully market products. For most consumers, they don’t know that the tracking is going on and don’t know how to stop it anyway. Recently, the FTC and White House have asked Congress to pass legislation to better protect private data and to give more control to users over the online files collected on them.

Facebook, it seems, is already heading in that direction, even without the government’s interference. And, in the end, Facebook is the one who prospers. Companies are more likely to buy more ads and pay higher prices when they know their pitches are reaching a receptive audience. Likewise, the audience is more receptive to advertising when the ads are relevant.

Facebook banks on the fact that users won’t be angered by the additional insight into interests because what Facebook user wouldn’t want to see relevant ads versus irrelevant ads? Additionally, Facebook users can click through their full marketing files and delete, change or add to the information within. Users can also block ads from specific advertisers, so they still retain a bit of power over the quality of their home feeds.

In the end, advertising via social platforms is here, and it’s here to stay. The Facebook change doesn’t mean you’ll get more ads; you’ll be seeing more relevant ones. And if you’re worried about the uptick in your spending patterns after this change, perhaps you want to work on ignoring online ads, just like you’ve already done for billboards and newspaper advertisements before it. And by the time you’ve perfected it, another new way to advertise will be the subject of our Insight for the week.

For more information on altering your ad profile, visit here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/13/technology/facebook-to-let-users-alter-their-ad-profiles.html?_r=0