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Facebook takes targeted ads to a whole new extreme

Facebook takes targeted ads to a whole new extreme
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Imagine this: You've just landed a brand new job and start on Monday. You've already called your closest friends and family to let them know the good news, but there's one final step to make it official. You have to update your Facebook profile.

In the past, this simple update was no big deal. It added your new place of employment to the About section of your profile for all of your friends and family members to see. It even announced on your wall that you had entered a new life event.

Nowadays, however, almost everything you post on Facebook is being used for something you might not realize. It's called targeted advertising, and it's something built-in to Facebook's algorithms so you'll see more ads that you might actually be interested in.

This form of tracking is sometimes convenient. For example, if you've shared a link to one of your favorite Adele songs, you might be shown an ad later on about an upcoming Adele concert in your area.

However, more often than not, targeted advertising begins to feel a bit creepy - especially as Facebook continues to take these tracking behaviors to whole new extremes. Of course, Facebook spokesmen have said this tracking is only used to bring you ads that are more relevant and interesting. But as you pay more attention to the ads you're shown, you might start to think twice about how much information you're releasing.

Note: Learn more about the effects of Big Data and behavioral tracking by listening to this special podcast.

It seems understandable that Facebook would have access to the basic information from your profile, such as your age, location, gender, educational background, birthdate, etc. But here are some additional things you might not realize you're sharing through your posts.

  • Field of study/occupation
  • Ethnicity
  • Home ownership status and your property's worth
  • Net income
  • Religious beliefs
  • Political affiliations

Beyond that, Facebook can gather information about your web preferences, such as the web browser you use most frequently, whether you access your account from your computer or your phone, which email service you use, and the types of services you use Facebook for (ie., games, Facebook Payments, Facebook Messenger and more).

By combining all of the data you choose to share, Facebook's algorithms can come up with a pretty detailed idea of who you are and what you like. If you've just retired, for example, you may begin to see ads regarding travel packages or retirement financial services. If you've just moved to a new city, you may begin to see ads for local shops and restaurants.

Engagements, weddings, anniversaries, divorces, pregnancies, new purchases and other life events can all be factored into the ads you're shown. The question is: Are you OK with that?

If you're not, there is a way for you to opt-out of Facebook's behavioral tracking. Click here and we'll walk you through settings changes you need to make with step-by-step instructions and screenshots. You can also wipe your Facebook search history clean and follow these steps to lock down your Facebook account for maximum privacy and security.

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