Facebook Ads: Users Offered More Control

Soon Facebook will opt you into ads based on your browsing history and offer new ways to adjust what you see. Here's how to opt out -- and the other key details.

Kristin Burnham, Senior Editor, InformationWeek.com

June 12, 2014

3 Min Read

Facebook Privacy: 10 Settings To Check

Facebook Privacy: 10 Settings To Check

Facebook Privacy: 10 Settings To Check (Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Has Facebook served you ads that left you scratching your head? Soon you'll know why. The social network announced today that it will roll out a new feature that details why you see certain ads and lets you adjust topics of interest.

Facebook also said that it will soon start using app and website data from your browsing habits to provide more targeted ads. This means that if you search for new sunglasses, for example, you can expect to see ads for them in on Facebook.

"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," Facebook said in a blog post. "Today, we learn about your interests primarily from the things you do on Facebook, such as Pages you like. Starting soon in the US, we will also include information from some of the websites and apps you use. This is a type of interest-based advertising, and many companies already do this."

[Facebook's latest privacy changes include welcome improvements. Read Facebook Privacy: 10 Settings To Check.]

How to opt out of ad targeting

In the past, Facebook has relied on the interests you list in your profile and the pages you like to serve you certain ads. Moving forward, Facebook will incorporate passive data -- such as the apps you use and the websites you visit both on mobile and desktop -- to better target ads.

Facebook will automatically turn on this type of advertising, which it says is common among advertisers, including Google. If you want to opt out, Facebook warns that the ads it serves you may not be as relevant.

To opt out on desktop, visit the Digital Advertising Alliance. This website will scan for participating companies that have enabled customized ads for your browser. You can browse your results to learn more about their advertising and privacy practices, and opt out of this advertising for all or select ones.

To opt out on your mobile device, use the controls that iOS and Android provide, Facebook advised. This includes private browsing, blocking cookies, and enabling do-not-track.

How to adjust ad preferences

If you're not sure why Facebook shows you the ads it does, a new feature called Ad Preferences will let you fine-tune your interests for more relevant targeting.

To adjust your ad preferences, click the X or drop-down menu near the top-right corner of any ad on Facebook. Then select "Why am I seeing this?" Facebook will show you an explanation of why you're seeing the ad and let you add or remove yourself from its audience. To view more audiences that you're part of, click "View and Manage Ad Preferences."

Facebook says that changing your ad preferences won't change the total number of ads you see -- only which ads you see.

"Keep in mind advertisers sometimes ask Facebook to show similar ads to multiple audiences, or to wide audiences," Facebook said. "For example, a sneaker company might want to reach people who like sports. If you remove yourself from the audience of people who like football, but not from the audience of people who like basketball, you could still see the sneaker company's ad."

Not all users have access to Ad Preferences; Facebook is rolling it out gradually. For more on how ads on Facebook work, watch the video below.

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About the Author(s)

Kristin Burnham

Senior Editor, InformationWeek.com

Kristin Burnham currently serves as InformationWeek.com's Senior Editor, covering social media, social business, IT leadership and IT careers. Prior to joining InformationWeek in July 2013, she served in a number of roles at CIO magazine and CIO.com, most recently as senior writer. Kristin's writing has earned an ASBPE Gold Award in 2010 for her Facebook coverage and a Min Editorial and Design Award in 2011 for "Single Online Article." She is a graduate of Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

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