Say you’re scrolling through your Facebook Newsfeed and you encounter an ad so eerily well-suited, it seems someone has possibly read your brain.

Maybe your mother’s birthday is coming up, and Facebook’s showing ads for her local florist.

Or maybe you just made a joke aloud about wanting a Jeep, and Instagram’s promoting Chrysler dealerships.

Whatever the subject, you’ve seen ads like this. You’ve wondered — or maybe worried — how they found their way to you?

Facebook, in its omniscience, knows that you’re having these thoughts/doubts — and it would like to reassure you.

But can they?

Facebook Fact: Did you know that while you’re logged into Facebook, they can track every other site you visit?

The social network just revamped its ad preference settings to make them significantly easier for users to understand. They’ve also launched a new ad education portal, which explains, in general terms, how Facebook targets ads.
Facebook has been quoted saying; “We want the ads people see on Facebook to be interesting, useful and relevant”.

The Jury Is Still Out whether MEMBERS are pleased, frightened or concerned by the amount of information Facebook collects on us.

Targeting options for Facebook advertisers

1. Location

2. Age

3. Generation

4. Gender

5. Language

6. Education level

7. Field of study

8. School

9. Ethnic affinity

10. Income and net worth

11. Home ownership and type

12. Home value

13. Property size

14. Square footage of home

15. Year home was built

16. Household composition

(Facebook 98 tracking points – continued below)


As Facebook has explained to us, they keep the advertising we experience “relevant and pragmatic” in four specific ways.

4 Specific Ways Facebook Tracks Our Online Activity

#1. Facebook tracks your on-site activity

Tracking activity such as the pages you like and the ads you click, and your device and location settings, such as the brand of phone you use and your type of Internet connection. Most users recognize these things impact ad targeting.

#2 Facebook tracks your web activity

But slightly more surprising is the extent of Facebook’s web-tracking efforts and its collaborations with major data brokers.
While you’re logged onto Facebook, for instance, the network can see virtually every other website you visit.

#3 Facebook keeps tracking even when logged out

Even when you’re logged off, Facebook knows much of your browsing: It’s alerted every time you load a page with a “Like” or “share” button, or an advertisement sourced from its Atlas network.

#4 The Facebook Pixel (a biggie, so more on this soon!)

Facebook also provides publishers with a piece of code, called Facebook Pixel, that they (and by extension, Facebook) can use to log their Facebook-using visitors.


Keith Agnew Blog - Facebook Tracking and my privacy

You may want to think twice before you click that like button .. or do you really care? If you asked me “meh, it’s the world we live in. I have the option to use Facebook or not.”


17. Users who have an anniversary within 30 days

18. Users who are away from family or hometown

19. Users who are friends with someone who has an anniversary, is newly married or engaged, recently moved, or has an upcoming birthday

20. Users in long-distance relationships

21. Users in new relationships

22. Users who have new jobs

23. Users who are newly engaged

24. Users who are newly married

25. Users who have recently moved

26. Users who have birthdays soon

27. Parents

28. Expectant parents

29. Mothers, by “type” (soccer mom, yoga mom, DIY mom, etc.)

30. Users who are likely to engage in politics

31. Conservatives and liberals

32. Relationship status

(Facebook 98 tracking points – continued below)


There’s more – Facebook offers marketers the option to target ads according to data compiled by firms like Experian, Acxiom, and Epsilon, which have historically fueled mailing lists and other sorts of offline efforts.

These firms build their profiles over a period of years, gathering data from government and public records, consumer contests, warranties and surveys, and private commercial sources — like loyalty card purchase histories or magazine subscription lists.

Whatever they gather from those searches can also be fed into a model to draw further conclusions, like whether you’re likely to be an investor or buy organic for your kids.
When combined with the information you’ve already given Facebook, through your profile and your clicks, you end up with what is arguably the most complete consumer profile on earth: a snapshot not only of your Facebook activity but your behaviors elsewhere in the online (and offline!) worlds.


33. Employer

34. Industry

35. Job title

36. Office type

37. Interests

38. Users who own motorcycles

39. Users who plan to buy a car (and what kind/brand of car, and how soon)

40. Users who bought auto parts or accessories recently

41. Users who are likely to need auto parts or services

42. Style and brand of car you drive

43. Year car was bought

44. Age of car

45. How much money user is likely to spend on next car

46. Where user is likely to buy next car

47. How many employees your company has

48. Users who own small businesses

49. Users who work in management or are executives

(Facebook 98 tracking points – continued below)


This is far from perfect

These snapshots are frequently incomplete and flawed, we should note — after all, they rely on lots of assumptions. But generally speaking, they’re good enough to have made Facebook an advertising giant.

Facebook Fact: In the 2nd quarter of 2016 Facebook POSTED $6.2 billion in advertising Revenue ($2.1B Income), up 63% from the year before.

In the second quarter of 2016, the company made $6.4 billion in advertising, a number that’s up 63 percent from the year before. And now, Facebook ads aren’t only on and its acquired apps — they also populate an external Audience Network.

“Speaking as both a consumer and as an advertiser, I think that Facebook’s ad capabilities make internet advertising a better experience overall,” said Kane Jamison, a Seattle-based marketer who has written about his experience with Facebook ads. “The majority of promoted topics that I see in my Facebook feed are relevant to my interests, and they’re worth clicking on more often.”

Not everyone is quite so convinced that Facebook’s targeting methods are benevolent, though.

Peter Eckersley, the chief computer scientist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, calls them “the most invasive in the world.”
Yes, he acknowledges, many companies use data brokers to make direct-mail lists, and almost every website utilizes some kind of tracker or cookies — but no company on earth, save Facebook, bundles all that information.


50. Users who have donated to charity (divided by type)

51. Operating system

52. Users who play canvas games

53. Users who own a gaming console

54. Users who have created a Facebook event

55. Users who have used Facebook Payments

56. Users who have spent more than average on Facebook Payments

57. Users who administer a Facebook page

58. Users who have recently uploaded photos to Facebook

59. Internet browser

60. Email service

61. Early/late adopters of technology

62. Expats (divided by what country they are from originally)

63. Users who belong to a credit union, national bank or regional bank

64. Users who investor (divided by investment type)

65. Number of credit lines

(Facebook 98 tracking points – continued below)


Take the example of the ad for your mother’s local florist: that might have been targeted to women from your hometown (which you’ve told Facebook) whose mothers’ birthdays are coming up (that’s in your Facebook calendar), who live away from family (based on off-site activity) and who have a high estimated income (according to Acxiom).
Or the mystery of the spoken Jeep joke and displayed the car ad — an adjacency that actually happened on local Florida TV, convincing one newscaster that Facebook “eavesdropped” on her. Facebook actually sources data from IHS Automotive, an industry intelligence firm used widely by dealers, banks and financial analysts, and doesn’t need eavesdropping to know that your car’s 10 years old and you might be back in the auto market anytime soon.
“Facebook’s business model is to amass as much first-party and third-party data on you as possible, and slowly dole out access to it,” Eckersley said. “If you’re using Facebook, you’re entrusting the company with records of everything you do. I think people have reason to be concerned about that.”


66. Users who are active credit card users

67. Credit card type

68. Users who have a debit card

69. Users who carry a balance on their credit card

70. Users who listen to the radio

71. Preference in TV shows

72. Users who use a mobile device (divided by what brand they use)

73. Internet connection type

74. Users who recently acquired a smartphone or tablet

75. Users who access the Internet through a smartphone or tablet

76. Users who use coupons

77. Types of clothing user’s household buys

78. Time of year user’s household shops most

79. Users who are “heavy” buyers of beer, wine or spirits

80. Users who buy groceries (and what kinds)

81. Users who buy beauty products

82. Users who buy allergy medications, cough/cold medications, pain relief products, and over-the-counter meds

(Facebook 98 tracking points – continued below)


Facebook Tracking VS Our Privacy

Eckersley’s main concern is how much consumers know about all this tracking — and how much they’re able to opt out of it. Facebook says it’s been transparent on both counts, and that the revamped ad preferences dashboard, as well as the long-standing “Why Am I Seeing This Ad?’ drop-down, is only the latest proof that it’s dedicated to user privacy.
But while both the dashboard and the drop-down will rid you of ads you don’t like, neither actually lets users opt out completely of any of Facebook’s four tracking methods. The preferences manager, for instance, lets users tell Facebook they don’t have certain interests that the site has associated with them or their behavior, but there’s no way to tell Facebook that you don’t want it to track your interests, at all.

Likewise, Facebook allows users to opt-out of advertisements based on their use of outside websites and apps. But that doesn’t mean that Facebook never tracks those people when they’re on other sites, Eckersley said: It just limits some of its more all-seeing methods. And while Facebook did push its data-broker partners to adopt better privacy measures when it began working with them in 2013, each broker still requires you to file an opt-out request with them individually.


83. Users who spend money on household products

84. Users who spend money on products for kids or pets, and what kinds of pets

85. Users whose household makes more purchases than is average

86. Users who tend to shop online (or off)

87. Types of restaurants user eats at

88. Kinds of stores user shops at

89. FB users who are “receptive” to products (from companies) offering debit cards, electronics, insurance, higher education, financial services, travel (etc)

90. Length of time FB members have lived in home

91. FB members who are likely to move soon

92. Users who are interested in the Olympics, fall football, cricket or Ramadan

93. FB members who travel frequently, by type (work or pleasure, etc)

94. FB members who commute to work

95. Types of vacations FB members tend to go on

96. FB members who recently returned from a trip

97. FB members who recently used a travel app

98. FB members who participate in a timeshare

End of list .. not quite. There’s more, I promise. (coming soon)


Facebook Tracking – My Conclusions

There is another option, of course: If Facebook tracking freaks you out, simply don’t use it. There are people who want targeted relevant ads — and there are others, like Eckersley, who can’t stomach it.

But wait, what was that? Eckersley has Facebook? Surely hell just froze over.

“It’s the paradox of modern life,” he laughed, adding that he needs the site to keep in touch with friends and family.

“We’re strongly incentivized, by the culture around us, to use this technology. It’s incredibly useful — and an incredibly giant structural problem for our privacy.”

Happy Browsing

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