By Jennifer LeClaire / CIO Today. Updated June 13, 2014.
In case you haven’t noticed, Facebook is giving you more control over what you see in your news feed. That may be a relief, especially if you are getting barraged with ads that have nothing to do with any product or service you’d ever actually purchase.
On Thursday, Facebook announced plans to give users a peak at the information it collects about its users and give them more control over that information. Essentially, users can add, change or delete the information in Facebook’s digital dossiers. That ultimately trickles down to the ads you see. And if you don’t like one that shows up in your Newsfeed, you can now let Facebook know.
“When we ask people about our ads, one of the top things they tell us is that they want to see ads that are more relevant to their interests. Today, we learn about your interests primarily from the things you do on Facebook, such as Pages you like,” the company explained in a blog post. “Starting soon in the U.S., we will also include information from some of the Web sites and apps you use. This is a type of interest-based advertising, and many companies already do this.”
Tired of Watching TV Ads?
Facebook offers a prime example: If you are thinking about buying a new TV and start researching TVs on the Web and in your mobile apps, Facebook might start showing you advertisements on deals for a new TV. Facebook’s stated goal is to help you get the best price or show you other brands that might pique your interest.
But Facebook’s assumptions don’t stop there. The social media giant might also start serving up ads for electronics of all kinds or even show you ads for other electronics in the future, from speakers to game consoles, to go alongside your new TV. Of course, that’s a lot of assumption on Facebook’s part and it isn’t always welcome.
“If you don’t want us to use the Web sites and apps you use to show you more relevant ads, we won’t,” Facebook explained. “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.”
Is This Self-Defeating?
Facebook has heard this feedback loud and clear: People want more control over the ads they see. With that loud cry in mind, Facebook is introducing ad preferences, a new tool that works with every single ad displayed on Facebook.
The tool explains why you are seeing a specific ad and lets you keep or remove interests that Facebook uses to show you ads. That means if you aren’t interested in seeing more ads for electronics, you can remove that category from your ad interest list. U.S. users will be able to use ad preferences in the next few weeks. Facebook is working to expand globally in the coming months.
We caught up with Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, to get his thoughts on the new tool. He told us he thinks this will be self-defeating, in part, because people’s interest in ads change daily.
Enderle offered a personal example: He is interested in car ads once every couple of years but if he opts out of them he likely won't remember to opt back in when he wants to make a purchase. By the same token, he said, wedding ads are really annoying except for that short window when you actually want to get married.
“You want the ads to match interests dynamically but if people opt out of categories when they aren't interested they won't see them when they are,” Enderle said. “This approach is one a firm would take if they didn't know anything about you. But Facebook, and social networks in general, are supposed to know everything about you so it makes it look like the very concept of social networking, as it relates to more effective advertising, is a fraud.”