Many people are angry that details about their likes and dislikes are used to focus ads at them to sell things on Facebook. People are even angrier that such data is at times abused by advertisers and other companies for their own gain, which was the case in the Facebook Cambridge Analytica debacle. To address these concerns, Facebook has posted a new Hard Questions series that is penned by Rob Goldman, VP of Ads.
In this post, Goldman talks about what it took for Facebook to build such a massive network and keep it free. He says that advertising is what allows Facebook to remain free. Goldman also notes that supporting the site with advertising requires a “steadfast commitment to privacy” which is something that Facebook has struggled with. In fact, the lack of protection for user data is what landed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in front of a Congressional panel.
Facebook says that it doesn’t tell the advertisers who its users are or sell the information gathered on its users to anyone. Goldman says that data like age, hometown, likes, stories clicked, and articles read being used to target relevant ads at users. The key fact that Facebook wants users to understand is that the advertisers have no idea who you are. The advertisers only get reports showing what sort of people are reading their ads. It also reminds users that they can check their ad preferences and remove their interests if they want.
Advertisers also bring Facebook data on groups they want to reach using information like emails or other data. Facebook can search for those users, but it doesn’t tell the advertiser who matched says Goldman. Websites and apps send Facebook information from Facebook tools, specifically those using Facebook Pixel, that are also used for targeting ads.
Facebook says that the users aren’t the product, the product is social media. The core product is finding news or information just as you do with a search engine, website, or newspaper. Ads exist to fund that experience says the executive. Goldman also notes that the only thing the social giant sells advertisers is space on Facebook just as the advertiser would buy on TV, radio, or newspapers.
As for users who don’t want ads, Facebook essentially says too bad. Goldman writes, “You can’t opt out of ads altogether because ads are what keep Facebook free, but you do have different options to control how your data can and can’t be used to show you ads.” He points to ad preferences where you can control profile fields you want (or don’t want) used for ad targeting. There you can turn off ads that use data from apps or websites.