1 Apr 2015

Does Facebook really know all about you?

Facebook allows you to see why it’s sending you the ads it selects for you. Just go to any ad or suggested post, click the down arrow in the top right-hand corner, and click “why am I seeing this?”. You’ll be redirected to a page where you can Manage Your Ad Preferences, and see a list of things the company reckons you’re into.


Here’s a selection of what Facebook thinks I like, and whether it got it right:

Geoff likes The Bible (curiously this is part of my “news & entertainment” preferences….)
FALSE. My partner’s religious. But even that doesn’t make the Testament a must-read for either of us.
Geoff likes Portishead
FALSE. Apparently I liked their page. Must’ve been a drunken screen-tap.

Geoff likes Harvard University Press
FALSE: Again, another drunken ad-click blunder.

Geoff likes “LP records”
FALSE. Apparently I clicked on an ad which made FB believe this. I don’t remember doing so, and I don’t have a record player

Geoff likes All Android Devices, All mobile devices, HTC Desire
CORRECT. Clearly FB are pretty good at detecting what device I use to check my account on the move

Geoff’s primary browser: Chrome, primary OS: Mac OSX
FALSE. I’ve been using Chrome on a Mac recently, but that’s by no means my regular habit

Geoff “returned from trip 1 week ago”
FALSE. Apparently this is based on my FB activity. Perhaps my commute sounds more exciting than it is

Geoff likes Boston
FALSE. Yes, I went there once. But of all the far-flung destinations (Hull, Swansea, Doncaster, I could go on…), why did FB hang onto this one?

Of course, Facebook gives users the chance to edit their ad preferences (ie. give the service an even greater insight into the kind of things you want to be sold). Personally, I’ve deleted all my preferences. I’m hoping a new world of unexpected opportunities awaits.

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