Facebook gives people more control over ads, collects more user data

Facebook announced Thursday that users can give feedback about which ads are relevant to them. The social network will now be gathering more data on users for these targeted ads, but will also tell people how to opt-out.

Facebook says it will begin gathering more data on users but that there will also be a way for users to tell Facebook which ads are relevant to them.

In Facebook's view, you are what you like, what you browse, and what apps you use. 

That's the gist of an announcement Facebook made Thursday saying users will now have greater control over the ads they see on Facebook.

Currently, Facebook targets users with ads based mainly on their Facebook activity, such as pages they like or items they share. But soon, users will be able to see why they were targeted with a specific ad, and, using a new tool called "ad preferences," choose whether each ad is relevant to them.

"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," reads a Facebook blog post. Facebook users in the US will be able to start using ad preferences in a matter of weeks while international users will have to wait a few months, according to the post. 

The goal is to give users more control over which ads they see. On the right of each ad will be a tool that explains why you saw a specific ad, giving you the options to say whether or not you found it useful or relevant to you. In addition, the social network will begin monitoring other aspects of your online activity in an effort to build a deeper ad profile on users. However, you can choose to opt out of this ad monitoring by using a website that regulates online advertising and special settings on iOS and Android smart phones. 

"Let’s say that you’re thinking about buying a new TV, and you start researching TVs on the web and in mobile apps. We may show you ads for deals on a TV to help you get the best price or other brands to consider. And because we think you’re interested in electronics, we may show you ads for other electronics in the future, like speakers or a game console to go with your new TV," the Facebook post reads.

“The thing that we have heard from people is that they want more targeted advertising,” Brian Boland, Facebook’s vice president in charge of ads product marketing, told The New York Times. “The goal is to make it clear to people why they saw the ad.”

This move comes after recent reports released by the Federal Trade Commission and the White House that detailed the extent to which companies store data on individuals for advertising purposes, and the negative consequences that can result from such vast data storage. 

While companies such as Facebook and Google rely on big data to appeal to advertisers, a process otherwise known as "interest-based advertising," a recent survey by Consumer Reports finds that 76 percent of online consumers surveyed said interest-based advertising was "of little or no value to them." The survey found that most consumers were unwilling to give up personal data, even when that data was anonymous, in exchange for targeted ads. Further, “about 20 million online consumers use software that blocks online trackers and 3.5 million use a privacy-oriented search engine,” the report states. 

Facebook is also placing greater emphasis on mobile ad revenue, which is currently outpacing desktop ad revenue. This move is evident in the company's recent hiring of former PayPal president David Marcus as vice president of messaging products. 

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