UPDATE: Since posting this and implementing the tips I share on this post, I’ve gotten relatively 0 ads as I scroll through my News Feed.
There’s one HUGE problem with Facebook right now, and I’m not talking about its recent privacy and data invasion issues.
Or even about the fact that Zuckerberg didn’t own up to that myriad of problems until he was caught.
Or that he’s not sorry for “breaching our trust,” but for disappointing advertisers and having his stock value go down.
I won’t even discuss all the “pay or die”-like hurdles Facebook makes small businesses jump through to merely get some visibility while it lets giant companies abuse our data.
No, all that, while important, is irrelevant to the subject at hand.
I’m talking about the fact that we’ve become SO dependent on Facebook
In my case, I almost semi-enjoy Facebook, not for my “Friends” (who I could reach using other avenues if I wanted, and whose number I shrank BIG time a few years ago), but for the business Pages I manage and the Groups I’m a part of.
My favorite groups, aside from mine called “Blogging for Success” (shameless plug), is one about Hawaii because I love that place and the recommendations members share, one about Keto, a few related to digital marketing, and another for wives.
But you want to know why the latter is so fun ?
Because it’s like a Facebook version of The Dr. Laura Program and I get to channel my inner Dr. Laura when answering the dumbest questions by some really clueless wives. It’s sort-of a Machiavellian motive. Sorry, not sorry.
When the Cambridge Analytica stuff came out, I really wasn’t that shocked. I mean, it sucks to live in a day and age where someone tracking my activity online and serving me ads or information based on that activity is the norm. But that’s how I feel.
Plus, I voted for Trump–not because I was served an ad telling me to do so, but because I thought he was the best guy for the job, and Crooked Hillary and her minions represent everything that is (+ more of what is) wrong with society.
It’s not like I’m desensitized against this kind of tracking–it’s more like I think a free service like this has to make money somehow. But I think recent events have alerted everyone that there’s too much BS that Facebook has been able to get away with.
Check out what I discovered as I reviewed my Facebook data:
I don’t even recognize some of those names! And others I haven’t interacted with in years! Facebook is essentially serving me crap, it seems. (E.g., I don’t have AT&T, I’m not in Canada, and I have no clue who FashionShe or Modlily, among others there, are.)
To know exactly just how much power Facebook had over me and how much it had been spying on me, I did two things recently:
- I downloaded my Facebook data
- AND I looked at my Facebook account to see what information I had actually been sharing and how I could remove it, if possible.
I’m already a highly private person on Facebook. Apparently, this means the Public can’t see much about me–but Facebook CAN.
Some more findings:
- Turns out Facebook has had all my phone contacts since seemingly forever.
- It could also see all my chat/Messenger conversations, and, of course, all the media I had shared (I’ll admit having access to photos whose location I may not be familiar with anymore was neat).
- Last but not least: Facebook knows where I’ve been and whaat I’ve done on those sites.
Facebook tracks you EVERYWHERE
People are reporting having a mere conversation with someone and then having the subject matter of that conversation (if it was a product or a company) pop up in an ad later on either on Facebook or elsewhere online.
And if you visit a dealership’s website, for instance, don’t be surprised to later see that dealer’s ad or inventory appear later on another website–or even Facebook.
That’s because Facebook tracks our online activity via code snippets called pixels. (And, for some Android users, Facebook also tracked their phone calls and text messages. Yes, really.) Advertisers place these pixels on their websites and those pixels then grab our IP address and other information and simply tag along with us as we hang out online.
Today, I also learned (I think I knew this from my work experience but I saw it first-hand today) that Facebook will advertise to me even if all I’ve done is given a company my email address because I was, say, interested in their products. Frankly, if I’m giving you my email it’s so that you send me emails. I’m old-fashioned like that: I don’t want to see irrelevant ads clog up my newsfeed.
How to Protect Yourself from Facebook
1. Change your Facebook email address
I figured I could change the address I gave Facebook so that I’m potentially no longer served ads when I want to know more about a company.
This required me to create another email address (from ANOTHER browser) since the one I used Facebook with was one I use for junk email and all that jazz. (Meaning it’s the same one I use to subscribe to product updates, etc.) After creating it, I had it FWD to my new Facebook-specific email address.
This way, whenever I give a company/advertiser my usual junk email address, neither that company nor Facebook will be able to make the connection and serve me any related ads.
2. Delete all information AND sponsors from FB
It might be a good idea to delete all my personal information. I’m talking about my education, etc. I already have it so that only I can see it anyways, so why not delete it altogether?
Along those lines, I also deleted all my phone’s contacts from Facebook while I’m at it. This way Facebook can no longer suggest “friends” based on that list.
Here’s how to change your ad preferences:
First, go to SETTINGS >> ADS (toward the bottom of the left sidebar)
As of March 2018, this page was divided into four sections (see above):
Your interests: Hover over each and hit the X on its upper right corner.
- On one case it said “You have this preference because you installed the app XYZ.” WHOA!! This was even more fascinating in the cases where it alleged I had installed a certain app–even though it doesn’t exist.
- Depending on how long you’ve bee on Facebook, you may have hundreds+. I only had dozens because I believe I had cleared them all years ago.
Advertisers you’ve interacted with: Same as above
Your information: This section is divided into two
- ABOUT YOU lets you manage whether Facebook can show you ads intended to reach people based on particular profile fields (e.g., Relationship status, employer, etc.)
- You simply switch the toggle: Gray indicates it’s off, while blue indicates it’s on and you DO want ads based on that field.
- YOUR CATEGORIES show you how Facebook has classified you.
- In my case, there were “Newlywed,” “Engaged Shoppers,” “Close friends of people with birthdays in a month,” “Family of expats” (WTF), among others.
- You simply hover over each and hit the X on the top right corner.
Ad settings: Here you tell Facebook what you want to see. This section is divided into three
- ADS BASED ON YOUR USE OF WEBSITES AND APPS: Select OFF under “Show online interest-based ads”
- ADS ON APPS AND WEBSITES OFF THE FACEBOOK COMPANIES: Select NO under “See ads based on my Facebook ad preferences on apps and websites off of the Facebook Companies”
- ADS WITH YOUR SOCIAL ACTIONS: Select NO ONE under “Include my social actions with ads for”
Hide ad topics: Which subjects do you wish to never see and for how long? There are three sections
- ALCOHOL: Choose from “Hide for 6 months,” “Hide for 1 year,” or “Permanently”
- PARENTING (Same time limits)
- PETS (Same time limits)
3. Monitor your ad preferences more regularly
The time to stop being passive users of such a company that doesn’t deserve our data is NOW.
If you don’t want to #deleteFacebook but would still want to hurt it where it’s affected the most, clear your “interests” and delete the advertisers you’ve interacted with more frequently–say once per quarter.
4. Join another social network
I’ve been hearing more and more about a particular new social network (no, not Vero), which offers the kind of “connection” we sought from Facebook back in the day, but without all the garbage that Facebook has for years been associated with:
5. Opt out of ALL ads everywhere throughout your browser
To do so, go here: http://optout.aboutads.info/?c=2#!/
6. Contact your representative
Slate had a really good piece recently about the problem with #deleteFacebook and suggested those of us who are tired of such a giant Goliath abusing our privacy actually contact our government representatives and members of Congress.
As much against (too much) regulation as I may be, Facebook’s recent scandals and revelations may warrant a need for some kind of government oversight. I heard that the FTC may start looking into Facebook, and that 40 Attorney Generals want answers.
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What are you doing about the recent Facebook fiasco? Will you #deleteFacebook, keep it, or change how your data’s used? Feel free to comment with anything else you want to this post!