Facebook Knows All of These Things About You (That You Never Told Them)

Targeting Abilities of Facebook

By Noah Jarosh and Jessi Chang

Whether you pay notice to them or not, every day you see them. Facebook ads are ubiquitous and only growing more and more popular as companies see the value in reaching the network’s 1.23 billion users at a relatively low cost. 

One of the greatest appeals in advertising on Facebook is how highly targeted ads can be. It’s undeniable: Facebook knows a jarring amount about its users.  When placing ads, companies are able to then take that information to reach the ideal audiences.  

Some of the information Facebook knows, one could expect. Things like your demographic information and basic relationship info, for example. These are things that you are asked to enter into your profile when you sign up for an account. Age, gender, single or takenit’s pretty easy to understand how Facebook knows these things about you.

But then there are some things that are a little more surprising:

Facebook_LikeableMedia_TargetingAbilities

And that’s only a small snippet of the information provided to advertisers by Facebook. There’s much, much more along these lines. Facebook itself holds this information, but the site also receives user data (both online and offline) from third party companies as well. 

All this said, some people may find the knowledge acquired by Facebook frightening, but there is nothing malicious in their use of it for advertising. In fact, the site takes measures to prevent its targeting from being too scary. Advertisers are not allowed to target or call out users by name, for example. Audience sizes must be at least 1,000 to provide a greater sense of anonymity. 

As with much of the Internet, the product being sold is not the site itself, but the users that visit. They are sold to advertisers in a similar manner of commercials and television viewers. What’s nice about Facebook’s targeting is that, if you’re going to see advertisements, at least you’ll see those that have a strong likelihood to be relevant to your interests.  

You can even edit your ad preferences and see what you are being targeted for. Just scroll over one of the advertisements on the right, click "Why am I seeing this," and then click "Manage your ad preferences."

It may seem scary and, at times, it may be. The knowledge Facebook has about its users that is available to advertisers is immense and overwhelming. However, this data is what makes advertising on the site a unique and interesting opportunity