Facebook Plans To Include More Of Users' Data To Target Ads

Jun 12, 2014
Originally published on September 23, 2014 6:01 am
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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

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And I'm Audie Cornish. Facebook plans to start selling more of its users' data to advertisers. The announcement today is part of Facebook's effort to ramp up online ad revenue through better targeted ads. Facebook also plans to let users see why they're hit with certain ads. NPR's Aarti Shahani reports. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The audio of this story, as did a previous headline and Web introduction, indicates that Facebook will share or sell user data to advertisers. The report adds that the data include "websites you visit and ... mobile apps you download." But Facebook says it does not directly share any user data, including Web searches, with advertisers. Instead, Facebook says it will act as an intermediary - adding data from users' Web searches to the information it uses to target advertisements. Users' search histories will not be shared with advertisers, Facebook says]

AARTI SHAHANI, BYLINE: Facebook is a business and Facebook users are not the customer. We - me too are the product that Facebook is selling to advertisers. Online ad money has been so good Facebook has beat Wall Street's earnings expectations for the last year. And the changes the company is making over the next few weeks should make it more profitable.

DEBRA AHO WILLIAMSON: What's different and what's new is that now Facebook is bringing in information from outside of Facebook.

SHAHANI: Debra Aho Williamson is an analyst with the eMarketer. Facebook already tracks the websites you visit and the other mobile apps you download. Before the company says it just used that information to improve user experience and online security. Now Facebook will sell that data to advertisers.

WILLIAMSON: If you were a soccer fan who also visited golfing websites but didn't tell Facebook that you were interested in golfing, Facebook might now know that information and be able to deliver targeted ads to you for golfing.

SHAHANI: Facebook is also rolling out a tool to let users see why a specific ad was targeted to them and to block a specific advertiser. Say you didn't want the golf ad? Aho Williamson explains you can use the tool to tell Facebook?

WILLIAMSON: And then they'll say well what are you interested in? Then you have an opportunity to if you want to share with them what you are interested in.

SHAHANI: These changes do mean more tracking and the burden is on users to block ads. But privacy advocate Todd Ruback with Ghostery is happy with Facebook in one key respect. It is making choices clear for users.

TODD RUBACK: Really the issue is to consumers is tell me about it first - let me know so I can decide whether or not it's appropriate for me.

SHAHANI: Back in 2011 Facebook broke promises about privacy to users and had to settle charges with the Federal Trade Commission. Aarti Shahani, NPR News in San Francisco. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.