One of the most attractive things about Facebook is the fact that it’s free. It’s one of the reasons why the platform has grown so massive in the past decade. But below the facade, Facebook has a reason for inviting millions to use its social network at no charge: The users themselves are the product. And the buyers, in this case, are advertisers.
It’s not exactly a surprise to find out that Facebook uses its members to make money. It is a business, after all. But Facebook isn’t exactly the most trustworthy when it comes to user privacy, ad revenue or data sharing. Just this week, we learned some voice chats through Facebook Messenger are being collected and transcribed by third-party contractors.
One of the ways Facebook made a name for itself was selling user preferences and engagement data to advertisers. That way, they’d know the best methods to target potential buyers across the demographic spectrum.
But scandals and data breaches have come and gone, and now that Facebook’s practices are out in the open, it makes more sense than ever to start limiting the information they share with advertisers. If you’re looking to take back your privacy from data-hungry marketers, here are the best ways to adjust your Facebook settings so you can stay below the radar.
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There’s a setting for that!
We’ve written time and time again about Facebook’s tendency to outright devour personal data, but one of the biggest defenses to its practice is the fact that it gives users the ability to opt out of certain functions if they no longer desire to participate.
Unfortunately, the menus and options can be a bit of a labyrinth to navigate, so we’ll be guiding you from here. The good news is that once you’ve adjusted these settings, you’ve drastically limited what advertisers know about you — as well as what kind of data they can collect.
To begin, log in to Facebook and click the arrow in the upper-right corner of your browser window.
From the drop-down that appears, click Settings. This will take you to the main settings menu, where you can adjust options for privacy, security, timeline and more. From the left-hand menu, click Ads. The next page you’ll see is called Ad Preferences, which is where you’ll be able to adjust the parameters of what advertisers can and cannot do with your data.
When you arrive on this page, your menu may or may not look different from the screenshot above. This is because each segment is collapsible, but we’ll be going over the ones that matter the most to your privacy, as well as the optimal settings to keep advertisers off your tracks.
See which advertisers have recently used your info
The top two categories in this menu are Your interests and Advertisers and Businesses. The former deals more in the information that Facebook uses to target you with ads — but this is generated from things that you “like” on Facebook and around the web. Rather than “unlike” all of these items, it’s best to just disable what advertisers are able to access.
But first, you’ll need to see exactly who’s recently targeted you in the first place. Tap or click on Advertisers and Businesses to see. The individuals and companies in this menu, at some point, accessed your information from a list based on your preferences.
These recent advertisers are fed back into Facebook’s machine for further targeting. To remove one, hover over the image and click the X that appears. Make sure to tap more in the menu above the advertisers to sort through and hide different entries under different categories.
Keep in mind, however, entries under the category Who has uploaded and shared a list with your info cannot be hidden or removed. That’s because these are the analytics and marketing firms that take the information from Facebook in the first place. Looking here, though, will give you a clue into just how many parties are dying to get a hold of your data.
See the information that advertisers are allowed to pull
A few critical pieces of information is all Facebook needs to build a demographic profile that it can sell. This information comes from your Facebook profile, but rather than censoring yourself on your public-facing page, you can actually disable the platform’s ability to pull this data in the first place.
Clicking on Your Information will show you some of the most basic pieces of data on your profile, such as your relationship status, employer, and education. On the right-hand side of this menu are toggle switches. Turning these off will stop Facebook from connecting advertisers with your demographic data.
While you’re here, make sure to also click Your categories to see any additional labels Facebook has fixed to your profile. There should only be a few here, so all you need to do is hover over each one and click the X that appears in the corner to remove them.
Change the ad settings so you’re off the radar
This submenu is the most important one on the page. It’s where Facebook gets permission to track your activity both on and off its platform, as well as where advertising partners are granted permission to do the same.
To begin, simply click on a category to expand it. You’ll get a detailed rundown on how Facebook uses each piece of data for its advertising purpose, as well as what disabling the function will accomplish.
As they point out, opting out of these categories won’t stop you from getting Facebook ads, but what it will do is limit the data pool they’re allowed to use. Now, they’ll only be able to harness activity from their own platform rather than what you do on different parts of the web.
Plus, by following the steps above, you’ve limited what they’re allowed to use on Facebook itself.
When you’ve made the decision to opt out, simply select Not Allowed for the first two categories and No one for the last one.
Once you’re finished, you will have successfully wrangled your ad settings into respecting your privacy a bit more. As we mentioned above, there isn’t really a complete way to stop Facebook from showing you targeted ads other than deleting your account. But taking charge of your privacy will at least limit its watchful eyes to its own platform.
And that, honestly, sounds a whole lot better than the alternative. Just don’t be surprised if the ads you see from here on are a bit less tailored to you.
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