Every DM you take, every Like you make, Facebook’s watching you.
You know this already — the platform’s algorithms track your behavior and serve you up related content; that’s how those “Suggested Pages” (often from advertisers) pop up in your feed. (Often inducing paranoia — “I need natural male enhancement according to whom?”)
What you may not know — and what may also make you nervous — is that you can see exactly what info Facebook is collecting on you and sending to advertisers. That area is innocuously called “Your Categories,” and this is how to access it:
1. Click the question mark at the top right of the screen. Choose “Privacy Shortcuts.”
2. Click on “See More Settings” at the bottom.
3. Click on “Ads” in the left sidebar.
4. Click “Your Information” and “Your Categories.”
You’ll see a list of info that Facebook has gleaned from your interests which is then sent to advertisers so they can accurately target you.
At present, you can tweak the kind of ads you see (under “Privacy Basics,” which is directly across from “See More Settings” described in No. 2 above), but you can’t opt out of your information being collected and used in whatever way Facebook sees fit, or may see fit in the future.
If you didn’t realize that, you’re in the majority, according to Joseph Turow, a privacy expert and professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School. He told The Washington Post that in his research, the majority of people don’t realize that no matter what privacy settings you choose, none of them affect what is sent to advertisers. As more people become familiar with Facebook’s data-collection efforts, the company has proven expert in tweaking them to skirt criticism. “Maybe you don’t even want to participate in those activities,” said Turow. “And yet you have no choice.”
If you’re feeling like you and your big brother Mark are growing apart, you’re not alone.