Facebook Amps Up Ad Targeting By Gathering Even More User Data

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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Facebook is for the first time opening up its ad profiles to let users see why they’re targeted for certain ads — at the same time, the leading social media platform is about to start sweeping up more data for profiles than ever before.

The Silicon Valley giant is set to begin using data it collects from users’ smartphone apps and other websites visited outside of Facebook to expand and improve targeted advertising.

Users will have the ability to opt-out of the platform’s tracking advancements, but will have to create accounts on a separate ad agency website and adjust smartphone privacy settings in order to do so.

While Facebook is letting users in on just how much advertisers know about them, the tradeoff is that advertisers are getting much more data to work with than they could previously access.

Information about friends, family, jobs, interests (a.k.a “Likes”), education, relationships and vacation destinations are essential elements for social networking and connecting — conveniently enough for Facebook, they’re equally relevant in the marketing sphere, and “Big Data” companies are willing to pay big bucks for it. If you’re a Facebook user and you haven’t answered them already, you’re likely familiar with the site’s constant badgering to “update” or “finish” your profile.

Though the social media giant is finally letting users see their “full marketing dossier” (10 years after the site was founded), The New York TimesThe Atlantic and others are raising the question, “Why don’t individuals in the United States already have access to this kind of information about themselves?”

Numerous countries in Europe and South America mandate user consent before their data can be distributed. Such privacy and security laws don’t exist in the U.S., and the most users can expect is a long, convoluted “privacy agreement” often composed of language twisting the reasons for data hoarding, like the one released by Google earlier this year.

Data broker Acxiom recently told the Federal Trade Commission it has roughly 3,000 data segments for almost every American consumer, and Facebook’s broker Datalogix said it has personal data on nearly every household in the U.S.

The White House released a report on “Big Data” gatherers last month, which examined the privacy and security risks posed to Americans from the industry, and recommended protections similar to those in other countries — including some guarantee of knowledge and consent over sharing certain types of data.

“Facebook will be the first major Internet company to show consumers how a specific ad for, say, a new television, is linked to a particular assessment of their interests, such as a fondness for electronics,” the Times reports.

As the leading social media platform and a giant in Silicon Valley, Facebook’s move, though not expressly for privacy, could set an example for other companies to follow and encourage Congress to take action on its and the president’s findings — especially in the wake of conversations sparked by the government’s own Big Data endeavors through NSA.

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