Facebook has decided to come clean. You are being tracked by brands online. Of course many people would think that this is about as obvious as bears needing to use the bathroom when roaming the woods, but it comes as a surprise to some.
In short, Facebook knows what you have been browsing on the web and Facebook ads reflect this. If you are frequently looking at cars online then your Facebook will probably be full of ads for new cars and car-related products.
Facebook – and Google – argue that none of this is sinister and just improves the ads that are served to you. If the ads are of things that interest you anyway then they are less intrusive than ads unrelated to any of your interests.
The new change Facebook has made is that if you hover over an ad, it will inform you that the ad was served because Facebook had some information that made the system decide this would be relevant for you.
Clearly the major online networks and search engines are trying to ensure that people are comfortable with how their information is used. None of them would like to see government controls over this kind of advertising, first because it is their major source of revenue and second because it would be terrifically complex to introduce – websites don’t respect national borders so the enforcement of national privacy laws could prove costly.
Will increased openness be enough to ensure people are aware that they are being tracked online? What’s your opinion?
Photo by Faheem Hussain licensed under Creative Commons