How to protect your privacy against advertisers on Facebook

Facebook has grown out to become an immense popular social networking site, with a vast user base of over 1 billion users. Through the Facebook advertising platform, advertisers have the possibility to reach a very specific part of these 1 billion users thanks to granular targeting options e.g. “males” and “18-year olds”. But also less obvious categories as “early adopters of new technology” and “parents of children between 5 and 10 years old” can be selected. The social network is able to derive this information from profile information and behavior of users on its platform and apps. Facebook makes money by selling advertisers granular targeting options for selecting a narrowly defined public for their advertisements. In other words, your data is a valuable good for the social network and Facebook makes a lot of profit by selling this data access to third parties.

But what if you don’t like Facebook making money by directing advertisers towards your account? How can you prevent third parties of using your information for advertising purposes? Actually Facebook and its partners do offer different options to limit the access to your personal information for advertisers.

1. Don’t let the “only me”-option fool you. If you don’t want some personal details to be used for advertising purposes, just don’t share this information on Facebook. The audience option “only me” does only limit the sharing of information with other Facebook users, this doesn’t include the social network itself or other commercial parties.

2. Adjust your settings. Facebook does have some options to limit the access of personal information for advertising purposes. You can find these settings by clicking on the menu button in the top right corner of the Facebook home screen, then navigate to settings and click on “Ads” in the left column. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the default settings are set on the lowest level of privacy.

Third party sites. If you don’t want third parties to use your information for personalizing future ad messages, you can turn this feature off by selecting “No one” from the dropdown menu that is accessible after clicking on “Edit”.

Ads and Friends. When confronted with ads on Facebook, often these ads are accompanied by friends who have “liked” the brand. If your friends act as ambassadors of the brand on your newsfeed, chances are that you also appear on their timeline. If you don’t want your picture and name to be displayed next to ads of pages that you have liked, choose the option “No one” from the dropdown menu that appears after clicking on “Edit”.

How to protect your privacy against advertisers on Facebook

Ads based on your use of websites or apps off Facebook. Advertisers can choose to tailor ads to behavior of Facebook users on websites or apps outside of Facebook by using cookies and trackers. Facebook makes it possible to unsubscribe from this “service” through options offered in the Facebook Ad section. The websites and offer extra options to limit your data access for ad-trackers.

3. Manage your Facebook apps. Companies often ask to use a Facebook app to take part in a competition or to play a certain game. When an app is accessed for the first time, you automatically grant the advertiser access to your basic profile information and all the status updates, photos and other profile data that are publicly shared with other Facebook users. If the creators of the apps desire additional personal information, they can ask this through the “permission” pop-ups.

How to protect your privacy against advertisers on Facebook

Even when you delete or block an app on Facebook, the advertising company can rightfully keep the information it has already collected through the app. It is recommended to read the pop-ups attentively, limit the amount of apps that have access to your personal information and remove old apps. This can be done through the submenu “Apps” on the Facebook settings page. You also have the possibility to ask every single app developer to remove the information they have on you from their databases via….

Even when you do not use Facebook apps, companies can still gather information on you through the apps installed by your friends. If your friends, on their account, have allowed an app to access their friends list, the company may collect some profile information on you. At the bottom of the “Apps” submenu in Facebook settings, you can limit this collection under “Apps others use”.

The same submenu also holds the options “Apps, websites and plugins” and “Instant personalization”. By turning off these options, you avoid Facebook providing you with personalized content on other apps or websites. At the same time, you avoid Facebook collecting information on you via those apps and websites, when you (consciously or not) interact with these plugins.

4.Check your mobile phone settings. If you are a user of the mobile Facebook application, you can find extra privacy settings in the app or in the settings of your mobile phone for limiting transmission of certain personal details e.g. location details.

5. Do not have a Facebook account. If you want to be really sure that no advertiser can use you data, the only option is to never register on Facebook. The given tips will not be able to totally protect your personal information from commercial organizations. The Facebook privacy statement indicates that “[…] we may use the information we receive about you […] to deliver relevant ads to you”, so when you sign up, you have to agree to at least share some personal information to the advertising platform.

But don’t be fooled. Facebook is not the only one to collect information on you. Even when you give up your Facebook account and just browse the web, chances are nearly 100% that your behavior will be tracked by other advertising providers (e.g. Google).

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Additional remark: companies do not have the permission to use information collected through apps for advertising purposes.

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