How to Keep Facebook Out Of Your Face

Category: Facebook

Facebook recently announced that it will start using all the data it collects about your browsing habits to deliver more targeted ads to you. That does not mean “better targeted” ads, necessarily. It means that Facebook will sell more ads, more ads will appear on your Facebook pages, and more advertisers will know more about you. If you don’t want that to happen, here's what you need to do...

The Facebook Opt-out Process

It may surprise you to know that Facebook has not been selling all of that data all along. After all, it’s common practice among many major websites, and advertisers are reluctant to spend money when they don’t have access to browsing history data that they believe will help them get the most bang for their advertising bucks.

The practice of displaying "interest-based" ads means that advertising networks make predictions about your interests based on the websites you visit over time, and customize ads accordingly.

To some, this is creepy. "Hey, why am I seeing ads for shoes on every website I visit, after shopping online for shoes?" Others may not care, and some even find it useful. Without this type of customization, you'll be seeing ads that have nothing to do with your interests.

Facebook Ad Opt-out

Until now, Facebook has jealously guarded the enormous amount of data that it collects on its members. It’s time to cash in on that information treasure, apparently.

On the bright side, Facebook will give members a bit more control over what ads they see. Ads will include drop-down menus that allow you to block ads from specific brands or firms. There will also be a little arrow in the top right corner which you can click to find out why that particular ad was chosen. For some reason, I get a lot of ads on Facebook for women's clothing, so that will be a useful feature for me. (Perhaps they noticed I had recently played the Monty Python "Lumberjack" song.)

To opt out of browser history sharing (interest-based advertising) Facebook directs you to manage your “ad preferences” using a tool provided by the Digital Advertising Alliance, a trade group for Web marketers. Facebook and other websites that display ads have agreed to honor the ad preferences that you specify here.

A visit to this page automatically launches a scan of your browser’s status, revealing whether you have cookies enabled. Cookies identify advertisers who drop them on your PC in order to track your Web browsing. From cookie information, the DAA compiles a list of firms that you “permit” to show you targeted ads, and whatever else their convoluted, tedious “privacy” policies permit them to get away with. You can view this list of companies and revoke your unwitting “permission” for all or some of them.

Are We There, Yet?

But don’t think that clicking “opt-out from all” is going to eliminate ads from your Web experience or completely stop the sharing and selling of your browsing habits. Only members of the DAA appear on the list of firms whose surveillance you can escape. It’s unknown how many Facebook advertisers belong to the DAA, so you may still see some targetted ads after opting out of sharing with “all” advertisers.

There are a few other caveats. The opt-out preferences are stored separately for each browser, so you'll have to visit the opt-out page for each browser you use. Also, because the opt-out preferences are stored in a browser cookie, the opt-out tool won't work if you have cookies blocked or disabled. It follows that if you clear your browser cookies, your opt-out preferences are wiped out. Also, only current DAA members are obliged to respect your opt-out choices. So if you're serious about opting out, you'll need to visit the opt-out tool on a regular basis.

Does interest-based advertising bother you? Or do you see it as a useful thing? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "How to Keep Facebook Out Of Your Face"

(See all 40 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Bob Deloyd
18 Jun 2014

Bob, is there a very simple browser other than the main 5, that we can surf the web with and doesn't collect all this spy stuff like web bugs, cookies, search data and the like?
I understand that cookies can be useful, but combined with web bugs can track you from site to site along with your search data.
Do you see where I am going with this?

Posted by:

18 Jun 2014

Is there a list of companies other than Facebook that voluntarily participate in the DAA program? ie: Those that honor the opt-out preferences?

Posted by:

18 Jun 2014

I agree with Smoky. Just don't use these sites if the privacy issues concern you.

Posted by:

18 Jun 2014

There are plenty of things on Facebook that I find annoying. Never took much notice of the ads.

Posted by:

Ian B.
18 Jun 2014

ILIXIR, your comments are right on!

Posted by:

19 Jun 2014

I don't mind the ads and I appreciate those that allow me to make a purchase that benefits animals. I love me paw print mud boots and the rugs that grab the mud from my dog's feet. If not for the ad on FB, I wouldn't have known about these products.

Posted by:

sky dive
19 Jun 2014

I do not trust the programme "Facebook" at all, so
keep away is my motto. I want as much privacy as possible when associated with the internet .

Thank you Bob for your very interesting and informative articles , Good reading always .

Posted by:

19 Jun 2014

I use a Facebook add-on call Social Fixer. It allows a lot of control over what is displayed. Granted it does not block the underlying "snooping" but at least I don't have to look at the ads!

Posted by:

ann davis
19 Jun 2014

I just did what you told to opt--out there were 116 participating businesses and all accepted
my opt out but cox digital would not---they must not have been participating---I tried to submit it several times---no go but 115 did! thanx so much!

Posted by:

19 Jun 2014

I see a relationship to the DO NOT CALL telephone list here in Canada. Bell Canada gives it to businesses so they know their calls are not wanted, and I don't get Canadian calls. India, though, doesn't care about little things like that and I get calls every couple of days from disreputable Canadian companies paying boiler rooms there to barrage me with East Indian voices saying "Hi, I'm Thomas and I'd like to talk to you about ..." May a tidal wave of bad karma engulf them all.

Posted by:

19 Jun 2014

Just a thought, for those who want free lunch without giving up your personal information, your local soup kitchens are the most reliable place.
For those concerned about being snooped upon, they might want to give up using email and cell phone too, LOL, as the Snowdon controversy has revealed that you are being monitored constantly by the US government on those media, and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany was spied on by the Obama administration just as well through email and cell phone conversations.

Posted by:

19 Jun 2014

I really don't mind the ads but it has become so bloated with them that makes my CPU get too hot while on facebook luckily I found a firefox addon to customize and get rid of the ads no my CPU is idling low.

Posted by:

19 Jun 2014

Add AdBlockPlus and Ghostery to your browser. Search through DuckDuckGo or Startpage. Job done!

Posted by:

19 Jun 2014

You talk of seeing lots of ads for shoes, having searched for shoes. What I would like is some way of signalling, 'I've bought the shoes now. I don't need ads for any more of them!'

Posted by:

19 Jun 2014

Right on, Alistair! I wouldn't mind those ads if they just had a button that says "I already bought it... stop wasting your money on me!"

Posted by:

19 Jun 2014

Paid ads on any website should be limited to a percentage of the screen area or a percentage of the total page download — and then ALWAYS LOADED LAST.
If I have to wait for for any appreciable time for ads to load, I probably will never go back to that site again for information or to shop.
As far as Facebook goes, get a life --- then you won't be on it enough to notice the ads.

Posted by:

20 Jun 2014

I've been putting up with unwanted ads for so many years I no longer really notice them much. Although it's a mystery sometimes why I get some of the ads I do seem to get. Then there was the time when I was doing some searches on Harry Potter (magic wizards) and started getting all sorts of ads for the Washington Wizards sports team paraphenalia. Not quite the same thing, ad folks...

Posted by:

Ken Splane
20 Jun 2014

I've used FB Purity browser add-on for a long time. Link:

From their site: "F.B. (Fluff Busting) Purity is a Facebook customizing browser extension. It alters your view of Facebook to show only relevant information to you. It removes annoying and irrelevant stories from your newsfeed such as game and application spam, ads and sponsored stories. It also hides the boxes you don't want to see on each side of the newsfeed."

No more junk on the sides!

Posted by:

Dave Sumner
21 Jun 2014

It's always good Bob, I've heard about 'Tails' It will give you lots of secret web snooping, but do you think it could help baffle these guys just for a little fun.

Posted by:

23 Jun 2014

I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay...

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