Facebook Using Your Likes, Browsing History & Mood Manipulation

When you read the recent blog post from Facebook about how they’re going to “Make Ads Better” and “Give People More Control”, you really want to believe them.  You want to believe that they’re really just trying to make your life easier by providing ads relevant to your “likes” and apps you choose to install.  Sure, if I have the MLB app, why wouldn’t I want to know about a sale on caps for my favorite ball team?  Or if I’m an exercise nut, getting the latest gear for my next triathlon might be really important to me and save me the time of searching for it.

But the bottom line is this: Facebook is going back on something they promised years ago.  Not only are they using our likes and apps to market to us, they’re also using our browsing history to target ads.  They can “only” use information from sites that have Facebook buttons (to like, recommend or share) or that you can login to with your Facebook account, but these days, that’s practically any site!

Of course, we can opt out, but it shouldn’t be our problem in the first place!  And according to a recent survey by Consumer Reports, 76% of consumers said it was of little or no value to them that ads on the websites they visit or in the apps they use show products and services that match their interests.  (Learn how to opt out here.)

When Facebook settled charges with the FTC in 2012 for deceiving consumers, part of the settlement said Facebook is required to get the consent of users before making changes to its privacy settings. Rest assured they will push the limits of what constitutes such changes.  (For more evidence of that, read about the controversial “mood manipulation” experiment they conducted that has recently come to light. By the way, mood manipulation is very different than “split testing” ads, which is Facebook’s excuse. Poor excuse.)

As always, consumers (and information privacy advocates) must continue to monitor their moves.

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

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