Facebook Will Now Target Ads With Your Web Browsing Habits

Facebook expands interest based advertising to track user Internet browsing behavior from websites that use Facebook like and other social features

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In a latest announcement Facebook informed, “We sometimes hear from people that the ads they see aren’t as useful or relevant to them as they could be.” Based on this feedback last year Facebook introduced online interest-based advertising – ads based on people’s use of other websites and apps – that helps solve this problem. For example, with online interest-based ads, if you visit hotel and airline websites to research an upcoming trip, you might then see ads for travel deals on Facebook.

Using data about the websites and apps that users browse for ad targeting, Facebook now has expanded online interest-based advertising and will now begin including information from pages that use Facebook’s Like button and similar social features. “We hope that the ads people see will continue to become more useful and relevant and that this new control will make it easier for people to have the ads experience they want.”

Until now interest-based targeting has largely been limited to what users did on Facebook itself, but from here on Facebook will capture user browsing behavior that have Facebook buttons enabled.

This is a big development for advertisers who from now on will be able to target ads using browsing data on Facebook properties, as well as external websites and apps in the company’s mobile ad network, Facebook Audience Network (FAN).

But before you can think about Internet privacy, Facebook has offered people tools to turn off these ads, including the Digital Advertising Alliance AdChoices program, which provides a mechanism that allows you to opt out across more than 100 companies. Additional tools are provided in the advertising controls on iOS and Android device.

With the recent development, Facebook has also introduced an additional way for people to turn off this kind of advertising from the ad settings page right on Facebook. “If you choose to use this tool, it will become the master control for online interest-based advertising across all of your devices and browsers where you use Facebook.”

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Facebook has a past that speaks about tracking people’s web browsing behavior which has concerned privacy campaign groups. Facebook first offered the Like button to publishers in 2010 as a way to help people tell friends and the company what was interesting.

Not long after the Like button’s launch in 2010, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other organizations wrote an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that asked him to set the buttons to only collect data if someone clicked on one. Facebook continued to let its buttons log data, and finally said in 2014 that it would “soon” use it to target ads. Now it is going one step further in collecting great level of user data with an assurance that a user can opt out.

However, Rainey Reitman, activism director at the EFF, says that is not enough, because anytime you load a page with a “Like” or “Share” button embedded, Facebook will still know about it. “Promising not to use information is not the same as promising to actually delete the data,” she says. “The ‘Like’ data is especially problematic. Most people probably don’t even realize that whenever they load a page with a ‘Like’ button on it, Facebook gets a little information on them.”

The exact implementation of the feature is still being worked out and Facebook at its end is saying that the data collection is no different from the trackers most major websites employ to trace their visitors’ web habits.