Have you noticed that when you’re on Facebook you see ads that somehow are relevant to your interest? Or better yet the ads are about what you were searching for the day before. How does Facebook know what you have been looking at or even know what you even like?
These are great questions to ask, and that’s why I decided to look into this a bit more, and with some luck, I will be able to answer these questions in a way that will make sense to you. 🙂
Facebook Knows a lot about You:
From the first day you signed in to Facebook and set up your account they have been watching you from behind the scenes. They have been building a “Shadow Profile” (a catch-all term for data that is outside the scope of your user’s official profile). Now, this is different from the actual profile that you set up when you started your account, and you have no control over it let alone be able to view the information.
From behind the scenes they are watching your activities online which will be everything that you have looked at, clicked on, thought about clicking on while your mouse hovers over the item, anything that you’re reading online, Bluetooth beacons and more.
And they can do this whether Facebook is in the foreground or background of your computer or phone.
One of the ways they used to target ads to you is with your phone number, yep the phone number you use for 2-factor authentication. And if you’re someone that hasn’t set that up and haven’t given them your number, well guess what, they still use it. Like I said they are collecting information about you in the background, so yes, they have your number.
And furthermore, if you gave them a phony email address, well they know what your real email address is. And if you’re wondering if there is anything you can do about this? Nope, and you have no control over what they have gathered on you either.
Now if you don’t agree with any of this there is only one way out, and that is to delete your account. One way or another they are collecting data to give to advertisers so the ads you see are relevant to you.
How do advertisers know what you like?
When a company wants to advertise on Facebook (buy a slot for their ad) they are looking to target people that would have the most interest in their product, not the whole world, just a group of like-minded people. The ads are expensive, so they want to get the best results; after all, this is how Facebook and others make their millions.
Though keep in mind Facebook does not allow companies to target a single person, nor are they selling the information they have gathered on you. So if a company wants to target a certain group of people by there phone numbers or address they must have already had it which Facebook will match with the ones they have on file.
If not then the company can only target certain groups and not individuals based on phone numbers or addresses.
What happens is the company will submit to Facebook a list of personally identifying information (this could be your phone number, address) about people they want to target. Facebook will then determine who to send it to based on the information they have on their own members (you) if it matches.
So it is in Facebooks best interest to use any means short of theft to gather as much information about you as they can like buying data from third-party data warehouses, credit bureaus and even from your offline purchases.
Why are they doing this? Simple, so they can provide the best targeting available for the advertisers that want to place ads on their platform. Advertisers love this, they can reach the people that are most likely to purchase a product from the ad that they are willing to pay a lot of money for.
As an Example:
Let’s use Amazon seeing that we are all familiar with them after all, most of us spend too much money there :). So let’s assume they want to advertise on Facebook for a certain product, and they want to target a certain audience that lives in a certain region of the USA and are of a certain age with interest in the product that they want to advertise.
What they will do is give Facebook a list of personal information like phone numbers they have on file of the people they want to target along with the region of the USA that therefrom, the range of ages, and other things.
Now what Facebook will do is compare this list with all the data they have collected on all of its members to see who closely matches the information. Once that’s done they present the ad to those people.
As you can see there are no names, addresses, or other personal information shared so they do not target a certain person with the ads, just a range of people that fit the criteria of what Amazon is looking for.
Some things to keep in mind about Facebook and your Data:
First: They will never target a small group of people with an ad or let an advertiser target a single person.
Second: Facebook does not and will not sell your information to anyone, they want to keep the data that they have collected for their use only.
Third: For an advertiser to target you with ads that are relevant to your personal information or phone number, they must already have that information on hand.
Fourth: You can opt out of targeted ads on the web, even with Facebook, though you will still see ads, just not relevant to your interest.
Fifth: Facebook isn’t trying to hide this from you. They tell it like it is on their platform in their “Data Policy page” that’s there for all of us to read, but I don’t know anyone that has ever bothered to read this including myself (until now that is :)).
Facebook isn’t the only platform that collects data about you, they all do this. Any online retailer (like Amazon) collects as much information as they can about you to help refine their ads. So no matter where you go online or offline to do your shopping someone is collecting data on you, which for the most part is fine until they are hacked.
There’s not much we can do about all this data collecting except maybe not shopping, staying off the internet or never leaving the house. Now I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a pretty boring life to me. Now there are some ways to keep some of your privacy private and you can read about this by clicking here.
So, what are your thoughts about all of this?
Are you going to become a hermit and hide from society, or are you going to just say oh well I’m not the only one? And continue living a fun fulfilled life on the internet.
Why not join in on the discussion by leaving your questions or comments in the comment section below!