February 7, 2013

Facebook (Somewhat) Admits When They’re Tracking You

By this point, it should come as no surprise that Facebook is tracking you online. Without tinkering with the privacy settings and without logging out of the service, Facebook is able to monitor your behaviors online, keeping note of which sites you’ve visited. It then uses this information to deliver tailor-made ads, just for you.

Yesterday, Facebook agreed to become more transparent in the way they deliver these ads to users, though not by much. According to AdAge.com, Facebook has agreed to display a little blue AdChoices icon in the ads that are delivered via Facebook exchange, the service that monitors online web traffic to deliver tailored ads.

However, while Facebook has agreed to show this little icon, the new move doesn’t come without a pair of significant caveats.

First, in order for a user to see this blue icon — developed by a group of advertisers to tell consumers when they are being shown targeted ads built by tracking information — the Facebook user must first interact with the ad. Currently, hovering over a Facebook ad on the desktop version of the site brings up a little gray “X.” Users can use this button to opt out of that type of ad or report the ad as inappropriate or irrelevant. Now with Facebook’s new agreement, the blue AdChoices icon will also appear to let the user know they’ve been watched. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Facebook has said they’ll allow advertisers to opt out of this icon program, meaning only those advertisers willing to mention where they received their data will host the AdChoice icon. These ads will appear on the right side of the site and will be interspersed with the rest of the ads normally found there. In order to find out which ads have been built using tracking data, users will have to interact with each one, looking for the gray “X” and maybe even the blue AdChoices logo.

Though these gray “Xs” seem like something of a hidden Easter Egg within Facebook’s site, their Director of Product Marketing, Brian Boland, has said users are accustomed to interacting with ads in this way.

“We have always given our users the ability to provide feedback on and control the ads they see on Facebook, by hiding, reporting, or clicking through to learn more about why particular ads are being served,” said Boland in an emailed statement to AdAge.

“This is no different for ads served through the Facebook Exchange, where users can also opt out of seeing ads from our FBX partners. Giving advertisers the ability to implement the AdChoices icon provides another option, another mechanism of control.”

The fact that these icons only appear on the desktop version is due to technical limitations within the system, explains Genie Barton, director of the Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program in an interview with AdAge. According to Baron, this new system is not yet able to be displayed on mobile devices.

“We wanted first of all to get something up,” said Barton.

“This is a pretty fast ramp-up for a new system.”

Facebook has said they’ll begin displaying the AdChoice icon by the end of March.

Image Credit: Photos.com

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Email