Unless you have gone off the grid due to internet privacy concerns and moved into a Unabomber-styled cabin in the deep woods, you are aware that Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, is getting grilled today on Capitol Hill.
Many Facebook users feel torn over whether to stay on the platform if their data was used in ways they had not considered, i.e. be used to attack a U.S. presidential candidate and support another, from a foreign entity no less. Still, users now may recall the Facebook app quiz disclosures that your profile was being used, and maybe even apps that said it would look at your list of friends.
One message Zuckerberg gave in his testimony is that Facebook is working to give users more control over how ads are served to them. Remember, you are getting use of the platform for free in exchange for receiving ads in your feed. If you are OK with that, then maybe you want better ads. Or, as the CEO himself put it: “People don’t like ads, but people really don’t like ads that are irrelevant.”
The platform is going to make improvements to make clear who the ad sponsors are and also put long-overdue controls on political and issue ads.
When I first reviewed my ad profile, it seemed Facebook’s algorithm thinks I am an African-American soccer mom. Well, close, I am none of the above. I also X-ed out these two categories from applying to me: soccer and “housemate-based households.” (I have lived with my boyfriend for several years and we have never considered ourselves housemates.)
But, now, you can define yourself to Facebook with more accuracy than whoever it thinks you are based on your likes and other activity on the platform and beyond. You can also instruct Facebook not to incorporate information about other websites you visit. Some of the ad interests for me I recognize as topics I have researched on the web. Others I haven’t the faintest idea why Facebook thinks apply to me.
Facebook Advertiser Preferences Includes Some Oddities
To start informing Facebook who you really are, go to settings and then click on Ads for Ad Preferences. You will then see Your Interests, Advertisers You’ve Interacted with, Your Information and Ad Settings. For instance, for the latter, I toggled to “No” this: Ads based on your use of websites and apps.
Here is what I removed from “Interests”:
- Sacramento Police Department
- Amateur Astronomy
- Chief Operating Officer
- Fire Protection
- Confederate States of America
- The Academy Awards
- Wide Receiver
- North (yes, the compass direction)
- Regions of France
- People’s Liberation Army Navy
- Burkina Faso
As for Advertisers I have supposedly interacted with, I only am a customer of three and only recognized a couple of others. The preponderance were entities I have no recollection of interacting with or never even heard of. Of the first dozen I viewed, I only retained Cirque de Soleil.
Several clicks later, I kept Mopar because we have Jeeps. I also recognized Compare TX-2 Candidates and a couple of politicians in my state I actually follow. Similarly, there was Filters Fast, from which I ordered once and they have since followed me around the internet, so much so, that I don’t want to buy from them again. I X-ed them out.
Moreover, I’ve never heard of Hungry Howie’s Pizza or some of these other characters. The following examples are advertisers I don’t care about and deselected:
- Americans for Prosperity (several state chapters but not my state)
- Likewise, a bunch of politicians in other locations
- Protect Jersey Jobs
- Otter for Idaho
- El Chapo (the TV show, not the actual guy)
- Disney Baby
- Hot Women & Hot Cars
- Senate Leadership Fund
- Several local NYC televisions stations
The Advertisers list went on and on and took about 10-15 minutes to go through. Amazingly, there were only three entities from which I have actually made purchases: Texas Hill Country Olive Company, Divers Alert Network and the New York Times.
Now that I have gone through this exercise, I look forward to seeing more relevant ads. I also plan to visit the Ad Preferences area again to ensure it stays somewhat accurate.