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Facebook Gives Advertisers More Access to Your Data. You'll Probably Be Fine With It.

Sure, this is what Facebook said it wouldn't do. But that was in 2011.

Adam Tow
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Facebook is going to give advertisers that want to target its users even more ammunition.

The social network will start letting advertisers take information about what Facebook’s users do on the site, mix it with data about the stuff they do on other websites and use it to hone their pitch.

Facebook calls this “interest-based advertising,” and says that this is common throughout the Web, which is true. It’s also what Facebook said two years ago it wouldn’t do.

Back then, Facebook began letting advertisers “retarget” its users based on their travels outside of Facebook. That is: If you visit Zappos before you come to Facebook, there’s a good chance you’ll see a Zappos ad while you’re looking at photos of your friend’s dog.

But Facebook was emphatic that advertisers couldn’t combine that information — stuff lots of people could find out — with information about what you did when you were inside Facebook — stuff that only Facebook knew. They had to pick one data set or another.

Not any more.

At one point today’s news might have caused a stir, but it’s hard to imagine that happening now. Facebook has transformed from a company that disdained ads, to one that said it could figure out a better way to sell ads than everyone else, to one that sells ads just like everyone else, but with a lot more scale and data. It makes a ton of money doing it.

And more than a billion people around the world seem okay with that. If you’re not comfortable with Facebook using your data in ways you can’t control, you stopped using Facebook a long time ago.

For the record, Facebook already allows people to control some of the targeting advertisers use, if they know where to look (Google and other sites do as well). And Facebook says it will give them more options to do so, and will make it easier to find those options.

Here’s a mock-up, for instance, of a screen a user might see if they saw an ad on their phone and clicked that “x” on the top right of an ad:

facebook advertising preferences screen

But you’re probably not going to bother with this stuff, or even know about it.

After all, that’s basically what Mark Zuckerberg said in 2011, when he was telling Charlie Rose how much he disliked the targeting that all the other websites do, and which his site does now. You can read the full text over at ZDnet:

“On those other services … you’re going to find people based on what they’ve browsed around on the Web and the people have little or no control over the information that a company like Google or Yahoo or Microsoft has about you. And, I don’t know, I think that some of those companies have made an effort to give people to give a page that they can go see all information that the company has about them. But, I mean, very few people are actually going to go do that. So in reality I think that these companies with big ad networks are basically getting away with collecting huge amounts of information, likely way more information than people are sharing on Facebook about themselves.”

This article originally appeared on

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