Facebook claims to offer 'transparency' about targeted ads

Facebook will now identify ads that have been targeted at users based on browser histories, ZIP codes and other data that advertisers collect. This is just a glimpse into the information floating around the Web about us.

According to a recent article in VentureBeat, a little blue triangle over an ad on Facebook will denote that it has been targeted for you specifically. But, don’t get too excited about this supposed transparency just yet.

For starters, it doesn’t reveal the specific information that led the advertisers to target you, nor does it specify how they obtained it. Furthermore, you have to jump through more than one hoop to even see the little blue triangle.

As the news source explains, you first must mouse over the ad itself, at which point you’ll see a little grey X in the top right corner. Then you have to mouse over that icon in order to see if the triangle appears. While users may indulge in this for a little while at first, they’ll likely forget about it or not care enough to continue the mouse-over mambo.

“At Facebook, we work hard to build transparency and control into each of our products, including our advertising offerings,” Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan told VentureBeat. “Today we’re proud to provide an additional way for marketers to communicate important privacy information to users …”

But is this really transparency? Again – they’re not telling you what specifically made them hit you with an advertisement. They’re not providing details about how they collect data that determines what ads show up on your Facebook feed.

As we delve deeper into the digital age, companies will often use smokescreen tactics to make it appear as if they are protecting your online privacy. It’s important that we don’t let these actions distract us from actually reading terms and conditions agreements and privacy policies. If you put your internet privacy in the hands of companies like Facebook or Google, you might as well post all your account passwords online while you’re at it.

John Sileo is a digital reputation expert and keynote speaker on social media privacy and risk management. His clients included the Department of Defense, Pfizer, and Homeland Security. See his recent work on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.