If you use Facebook, then you know the deal.
Facebook is free to use and fun, and sometimes necessary if you belong to groups that use it to communicate with their members.
But in exchange for that service, you have allowed it to track your activity so that advertisers can find you, hopefully to show you stuff you’ll want to buy.
In other words: you can’t opt out of ads on Facebook without opting out of Facebook itself.
But there’s still a lot you can do to control the ads you see.
And there’s also stuff you can do to stop Facebook from watching what you do on the rest of the internet in service of its advertisers.
Besides all the usual arguments about privacy, there is another good reason to figure out what Facebook knows about you and participate in that.
It shows you ads based on what it thinks you like. The better it does this, the more likely you are going to see ads on things that truly interest you.
Facebook has three ways to figure you out.
1. What you tell it directly (name, age, marital status, parental status, where you live, work, went to school, etc.).
2. What you do while you are on Facebook, including stuff you’ve “liked,” groups you joined, photos and links you’ve shared, things you click on.
3. What you do on the rest of the internet outside of Facebook such as websites you visit.
Many sites track this information via cookies and Facebook reads those cookies and uses that information to serve up ads both on its site and on other websites, it says.
It’s easy to see the things you’ve directly shared with Facebook on your Timeline profile page. But to see a fully tally of what Facebook thinks you like, you need to find a tool called Ad Preferences.
This tool is not easy to find. Locate it by using the controls Facebook has embedded into the ads themselves.
Head to your Facebook news feed.
Hover your mouse over any ad you see in the right-hand column and look for the little “x” to appear in the corner of the add. Click on it.
You can make Facebook stop tracking you on the internet.
Facebook does watch what you do outside of Facebook to show you ads.
“For example, if you visit travel websites, you might then see ads on Facebook for hotel deals. We call this online interest-based advertising,” it explains.
You can tell it to stop showing you ads based on you do on the internet. Click on the lock icon in the blue bar. Then click on “Ads” in the left column, then choose “Off.”
This will not stop Facebook from showing you just as many ads, but it won’t be using your web activity for them.
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