Most Facebook users aren't aware of the social network's targeted ad practices

Shawn Knight

Posts: 14,032   +150
Staff member
A hot potato: The average Facebook user is seemingly oblivious to the detailed profiles Facebook builds for the purpose of targeted advertising despite the fact that the social network openly shares said information with its users. Worse yet, nearly one in three users say Facebook's portrayal of them isn't all that accurate.

Facebook generates most of its revenue through carefully targeted advertising, not-so-common knowledge if the latest study from the Pew Research Center is any indication.

The fact tank recently grilled a sample of Facebook users about the data the site collects on them. Specifically, when asked to comment on how the site’s algorithm categorizes their interests, 74 percent were unaware that Facebook maintains a list of their traits and interests (data about your interests can be found on the “Your ad preferences” page).

Furthermore, 51 percent of respondents said they were not comfortable with the fact that Facebook compiles such information while 27 percent said Facebook’s portrayal of them was not very or not at all accurate. Conversely, 59 percent said Facebook’s categorizations did reflect their real-life interests.

Facebook’s complex algorithms also make educated guesses regarding a user’s political preferences.

Pew found that about half of Facebook users are assigned a political “affinity.” Of those who are assigned a political category, 73 percent said the categorization was very or somewhat accurate.

Facebook takes into account a number of metrics when populating its "Your ad preferences" list including data provided by a user, their engagement with content on the site like the material they post, like and commented on and even their behavior outside of Facebook.

Pew collected its survey data from 963 US-based Facebook users ages 18 or older between September 4 and October 1, 2018.

Lead image courtesy Wachiwit via Shutterstock

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senketsu

Poll states the people were 18 years of age or older and yet most of them don't seem to have an effing clue
this poll uses a whole 963 US-based Facebook users
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 7,472   +6,252
Poll states the people were 18 years of age or older and yet most of them don't seem to have an effing clue
this poll uses a whole 963 US-based Facebook users
They must think the sample size is sufficient. I'm not up on sample sizes, but given the number of supposed fakebook users, the sample size seems small - to me.

However, given that many fakebook users have simply jumped on a fad or are on because of peer pressure, it would not at all surprise me if these results reflect reality.
 

ShagnWagn

Posts: 1,297   +1,085
While I do know most of this, and don't trust them whatsoever, they keep adding more and more junk and burying the settings further and further into their bloated menu system. I disabled everything I could find, but they are probably just "feel good" buttons that don't really do anything.

I was astounded what they have me tagged for when I was far from anything they are flagged me on. Do their advertisers even know how bad it is? If I were any of the advertisers, I would be pissed. Do the advertisers know that I also boycott their products for shoving ads in my face every other post? That is if I even notice as my eyes are trained to not look at them.
 

ckm88

Posts: 385   +267
The average user probably doesn't know (hell, even if they knew), they'd still use it. I mean who cares as long as you get those likes, right?
 

mcborge

Posts: 599   +487
I will admit to still using facebook, mainly for specific medical condition support groups and vaping groups (I have Fibromyalgia), but I use it on my own terms, I don't use it on my phone at all and only use it via firefox on my main rig with ads blocked and at times that suit me. I'm pretty much an ad agancy's worst nightmare as I never pay any attention to any forms of advertising what so ever and I can spot a sponsored write up a mile off so I avoid those too. If I use a product or service it's because I want to use it and not because I was cajoled into it by some ad campaign, I hate being told what to do and how to think. Ad campaigns are like scams in that they are designed to attract the gullible into parting with their cash.
 

Linoleum77

Posts: 71   +119
Poll states the people were 18 years of age or older and yet most of them don't seem to have an effing clue
this poll uses a whole 963 US-based Facebook users
They must think the sample size is sufficient. I'm not up on sample sizes, but given the number of supposed fakebook users, the sample size seems small - to me.

However, given that many fakebook users have simply jumped on a fad or are on because of peer pressure, it would not at all surprise me if these results reflect reality.

Oh yeah, it's plenty! A sample size of 1000 will give you a confidence interval of +/-3% 19 times out of 20 (95%). Even for a population the size of USA.
 

Bubbajim

Posts: 720   +694
They must think the sample size is sufficient. I'm not up on sample sizes, but given the number of supposed fakebook users, the sample size seems small - to me.
Nah, given controls for demographics, a sample of around 1,000 people is normally representative and so accurate to within a 3% margin of error.

This is all pretty fascinating but quite depressing. It shows the disconnect between those who are familiar with platforms like this and those who aren't. Facebook being compelled to give notices periodically and get specific opt-in consent for particular data practices doesn't seem to have enticed many people into checking out exactly what data Facebook are harvesting.

But I guess ultimately this is similar to the ToS people skip past all the time (myself included). Out of sight, out of mind!