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Facebook will use web history to target ads

Up till now, Facebook used information from things users did on Facebook -what Pages they Liked, what, what ads they looked at etc. in order to target advertising, but today it that in future it will track users across the web in order to better target their sponsored advertising.

‘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.

Needless to say, we consider this concept hellish, if all too commonly seen these days

Facebook does provide the option to opt-out of this targeted advertising using the industry-standard Digital Advertising Alliance opt out, but this is third-party cookie based solution (a cookie is left in your browser telling companies that you have opted out), which we are none too keen on, as even if you opt out of targeted advertising, companies will continue to track your behaviour and collect information on you.

If using a browser such as Firefox (and to a lesser extent Chrome), we feel it is a much better idea to take matters into your own hands and use extensions that block tracking, such as Disconnect, Ghostery, or (even more effective but requires more maintenance and knowledge) NoScript, plus a good cookie manager (such as Cookie Monster or Click & Clean) to prevent tracking (EFF’s alpha Privacy Badger may also be a good choice), plus some version of Adblock, so that you don’t actually have to see any ads (targeted or not).

Facebook also says that it will use mobile apps to track users’ activities, but that this can be turned off using ‘the controls that iOS and Android provide.’ In practice, Android does allow users to opt out of Google’s Advertising ID tracking technology, used by app devs to track and identify users’ consumer interests , but iOS, while providing a ‘Limit Ad Tracking’ option for its Identifier for Advertising (IDFA) technology, does not allow users to block tracking completely.

Another danger lies in using less popular, or specialized browser apps. I personally, for example, use (or at least did until today) the Feedly RSS newsreader app, which uses its own customized browser to read web pages. Unfortunately there is no way to install anti-tracking extensions for it, or even to manage cookies.

Facebook tracking in Feedly

116 companies were tracking me through the Feedly app

In such situations you may be forced to use the Digital Advertising Alliance opt out option, or (which is what I shall be doing from now on) access the service through its standard webpage rather than through the app (the Ghostery extension can be used in Firefox for Android).

In fact, if you are worried about tracking, you should uninstall the Facebook mobile app, and access Facebook through your bowser!


Douglas Crawford I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. Find me on Google+

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