Facebook expands ad targeting of users to include out-of-network browsing data

Facebook is to start providing advertisers with more user data, drawing from browsing habits and external websites visited, in addition to their current ‘likes.’ This will be the first time that Facebook has used information from outside the network.

The company announced the change early on Thursday, saying the move is aimed at targeting individual users more efficiently.

“If you live in the US, you’ll be able to use ad preferences in the next few weeks, and we are working hard to expand globally in the coming months,” Facebook stated in a blog post on Thursday.

However, the move has sparked concern among privacy advocates and will likely ignite further criticism about its respect — or lack thereof — of users’ personal data.

“Facebook is continuing on a campaign to push the data envelope, raising troubling privacy and consumer-protection concerns,” Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, told The Wall Street Journal.

But Facebook portrayed the changes in a more positive light.

“This is a type of interest-based advertising, and many companies already do this,”
 the company stated.

Facebook already has a great deal of access to its users’ personal data, with third party ‘plug-ins’ also gathering a great deal of information.

To dilute concerns, Facebook will for the first time be giving people the ability to edit all ‘interests’ on their personal record.

“If you don’t want us to use the websites and apps you use to show you more relevant ads, we won’t. You can opt out of this type of ad targeting in your web browser using the industry-standard Digital Advertising Alliance opt out, and on your mobile devices using the controls that iOS and Android provide,” the company stated.

Joseph Turow, a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania, told WSJ that although allowing users to see why they are being targeted is a positive step, Facebook’s ever-changing privacy policy could quell awareness over the erosion of privacy protections.

Facebook “dribble[s] out what they do so that any kind of anger is dissipated,” Turow said. “I think it is a strategy, to be honest.”

Reprinted with permission.