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Security & privacy

Facebook now allows you to opt out of one of their creepiest features

As Facebook tries to rehabilitate its image as a creeper, the company is supposedly offering more “transparency.” Now, Facebook is providing users information about the ads they see on their feeds.

The ads on your feed are so targeted they leave you wondering just how these companies are finding you. I haven’t been on Facebook for months, yet these advertisers know so much about me.

Facebook is now allowing you to access more details about why a particular ad is on your feed. Read on to find out how Facebook’s latest feature works and how helps you keep your personal data private.

Facebook offers ‘transparency’

We all know that Facebook harvests a tremendous amount of its users’ personal data. We also know that the company is not very careful about protecting that data.

Following the Cambridge Analytica fiasco, users, consumer advocates and lawmakers began grilling Facebook about how data ends up in the hands of third-party brokers. In its patented clumsy way, Facebook is pulling back the curtain.

In a feature that already is up and running, you can now find out why a certain company is targeting you with advertising, and even a way to opt out of the ads.

How this new Facebook tool works

This being Facebook, there’s never an easy way to use its features. Just ask anyone who has tried to delete their account.

Here are the steps to take to find out why you’re getting certain advertisements and how to opt out. When you see an ad, click on the three dots in the upper right corner.

This will open a drop-down menu allowing you to hide the ad, report it, and more importantly, find out why you are seeing the ad.

After clicking “Why am I seeing this add,” you’ll be directed to another page that provides that information. In this case, Facebook claims it “did not learn any new identifying information about you.” Probably because it already has it.

You’ll also get the information that the advertiser wanted to reach people 18 and older in the U.S. The company helpfully received information based on my Facebook profile and where I’ve connected with the company on the internet.

Hit the Options button and you’ll get a message allowing you to hide all ads from this company on your feed. Again, this being Facebook, some ads only have one option to pick from. At the bottom of the page click on “Manage Your Ad Preferences.”

You’ll be sent to another page that includes information on your interests, advertisers and businesses, and more.

Under “Advertisers and Businesses,” you’ll see who has placed ads in your feed over the past seven days. Facebook says the advertisers used a list uploaded to Facebook that contains information such as my email and phone number.

Facebook claims it matched the uploaded information to my profile without revealing my identity to the advertiser.

By clicking “Ad settings,” you get information that better explains why an advertiser has targeted you. In my case, while I don’t use Facebook, I do use its sister site Instagram a lot. Harvesting that information, Facebook matches ads to my activity.

It also uses data that “advertisers and partners provide us about your activity off Facebook Company Products.” The “Ad settings” page is where you can control how some of your data is used.

By clicking “Hide ad topics,” you’ll be allowed to hide ads on a particular topic for six months, one year or permanently.

When you click on “How Facebook ads work,” you’ll get information on how your data is used by Facebook and businesses to find and link to you.


Facebook’s third-party deals

Yes, this information offers some transparency, but it barely touches on Facebook’s shady third-party links. Reading some of this information can give you the impression that Facebook fiercely protects your data from advertisers and third-party brokers.

Not a chance. As we learned from the Cambridge Analytica disaster, the company harvested Facebook data through quizzes, apps and other programs that you can log in to from Facebook.

Cambridge Analytica isn’t the only company to get data from Facebook this way. Many other third parties do this as well.

This situation has created the “data broker” cottage industry. These shady platforms crawl across social media and public records to build profiles about anyone they come across — and they’re more than happy to sell the data to the highest bidders. can guide you through the process of removing your data from third-party broker sites.

Facebook claims it doesn’t sell account users’ data, but an explosive report alleges it’s more than willing to use it as a cudgel to keep potential competitors in line. 

NBC got its hand on 4,000 leaked documents that showed how Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg orchestrated plans to strengthen Facebook’s dominance by dangling user data to companies and third-party developers. The company also used data as a trading tool despite publicly advocating for its platform’s privacy.

Now, Facebook is explaining to you why you get certain advertisements and how to opt out. So, is Facebook really and truly protecting our data now? Don’t count on it.

Let’s not forget, Facebook has shown time and again that there’s always a snake in its garden.

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