Facebook’s Ad Targeting Will Get Interest Data From Outside Websites And New Options For Opting Out

Facebook says it’s bringing more data into its interest-based ad targeting — specifically data from non-Facebook websites and mobile apps.

So even if your profile doesn’t say anything about your love of, say, soccer, and even if you haven’t Liked any soccer-related Pages on Facebook, the social network can still see that you’ve visited soccer-related websites and target ads accordingly.

In a blog post, the company describes this as “a type of interest-based advertising” that’s already practiced by “many companies”:

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.

A Facebook spokesperson emphasized that this doesn’t actually involve collecting new data. Instead, the company already has access to this information from websites that installed the Facebook conversion pixel and apps that use the Facebook SDK — it’s just using the data in a new way. (It’s also worth noting that Facebook already used third-party data to target other types of ads on its site, including retargeted ads sold through its FBX exchange.)

This has an obvious appeal for Facebook and its advertisers, since it means that they can reach a broader group of users (including those who may not share much personal data on Facebook itself) around a certain interest. The company argues that this also addresses “one of the top things” that users say when asked about ads — “they want to see ads that are more relevant to their interests.”

At the same time, some users probably don’t want to be targeted like this, so the company is also introducing a couple of new ways for people to indicate that they’re not interested. First, Facebook says the ads targeted using this data will include “the industry-standard Digital Advertising Alliance opt out” — namely, they’ll have those little blue AdChoices triangles that you’ve probably seen on banner ads. By clicking on the icon, you can opt out of certain kinds of ad targeting.

In addition, Facebook is introducing a new ad preferences tool. Previously, when you examined an ad in Facebook, you could say that you don’t want to see the ad or the advertiser again. Those are still options, but now you can also ask, “Why am I seeing this?” and Facebook will tell you were targeted.

Then a new dashboard will allow you to add and remove the interests that are used for targeting purposes. So, to stick with the examples above, if you’re tired of seeing soccer- or electronics-related ads, you can tell Facebook that you want to get rid of them altogether.