‘There’s no hiding — Facebook will find you on the Internet,’ commented one tech site of the move to expand the social network’s targeted ads to non-users.
MINNEAPOLIS — Last week, Facebook announced that it would begin tracking and serving ads to all Internet users, expanding the reach of its already massive online advertising network beyond its own user base.
“Facebook has set out to power all advertising across the Internet,” reported Jack Marshall in the Wall Street Journal on Friday.
In addition to boasting over 1 billion users, Facebook wants to be the largest online advertising network, hoping to outpace Google, the Internet giant which has so far dominated the market thanks to the mountains of users’ browsing data generated by its search engines and apps.
‘Advertising is a system of surveillance’
Advertising networks, including those used by MintPress News, collect data about users’ online browsing and shopping habits and then use that data to target customers with advertisements tailored to their interests and demographic groups. With the growing popularity of smartphones, which include built-in location tracking software, even offline shopping habits are increasingly integrated into these databases.
Until May 26, Facebook’s ad network, the Digital Advertising Alliance, only served up ads when a Facebook user visited a website that was part of the alliance. But with the latest change, Facebook will now begin tracking and serving advertisements to everyone, even if they’ve never used Facebook or have quit the site. Marshall wrote:
“To date, Facebook has only showed ads across its Audience Network to Facebook users, targeted based on information the company has collected about its users’ tastes and behaviors. Now Facebook plans to collect information about all Internet users, through ‘like’ buttons and other pieces of code present on Web pages across the Internet. It will then use the information it collects to target ads to non-Facebook users.”
Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s vice president of advertising and business, told the Journal, “Publishers and app developers have some users who aren’t Facebook users. We think we can do a better job powering those ads.”
While the data that ad networks collect and share is meant to be anonymous demographic information that isn’t linked to real names and identities, tech experts are increasingly concerned about their impact on users’ privacy. In 2013, slides from an internal presentation leaked to The Washington Post by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA uses Google advertising cookies to track hacking targets. And on May 25, Rewire reported that opponents of abortion are using a targeted advertising technology called geo-fencing to send text messages to patients in the waiting rooms of reproductive health clinics.
Chris Hoofnagle, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Law and School of Information, told Rewire that this kind of behavior represents an ethically troubling, but ultimately legal expansion of online advertising from its original role as a mere money-maker for websites:
“Advertising is a system of surveillance now … It used to be billboards and television. Now it’s surveillance.”
How to opt-out of Facebook’s targeted advertising
“One thing is for sure from today’s news though: if you’ve avoided getting a Facebook account so far or have quit the social network, there is no hiding — Facebook will find you on the internet,” TechCrunch reported on May 26.
Although both Facebook users and non-users are now automatically targeted for Facebook’s advertising, there are ways to opt-out of the tracking.
Facebook users need to visit their account Settings, choose “Ads” from the column on the left-hand side of the Settings page, and then turn each option to “No” or “No one.”
Those who have kicked the Facebook habit or never joined in the first place, will need to visit the opt-out page on the Digital Advertising Alliance website. On Saturday, Business Insider offered this step-by-step guide for opting out.
Google also offers a website to opt-out of its targeted ads.
Watch “How Geo-Fencing Works … and How It Can Be Abused” from Rewire: