If you use Facebook, the specific ads you see have been based mostly on what you do on Facebook -- your profile information, status updates, likes and interests.
That's changing. The company says it will soon give advertisers more options to tailor ads to what you do outside Facebook. Shopping for a new TV? Get ready to see ads for TV sets on Facebook.
Unless you're willing to unplug, there's little you can do to avoid being tracked online. But there are some ways to control what ads you see and how the ads are tailored to you.
HOW IT WORKS:
Facebook doesn't share your specific identity with advertisers. Rather, the advertiser can select the types of people to show ads to.
An advertiser might want to reach women who just moved to Boston and who just got engaged, for instance. When buying the ad, the advertiser checks all the boxes that apply. Facebook matches the ads to the specific people who fit those attributes, without having to reveal their identities to the advertiser.
Besides the obvious attributes such as location, age and gender, advertisers can select languages, "ethnic affinity" and life events such as people who have recently moved, are living away from their family, got a new job and so on. Advertisers who want to target the newly engaged can narrow that down to engagements within one year or within three months. There are even options to target baby boomers, video game console players, early or late adopters of technology, fans of specific sports teams or people who go on cruises.
Facebook even considers your offline shopping behavior. Facebook's advertisers can see, for example, whether the ad for detergent you saw on Facebook led you to buy that brand in a drug store the following week. Facebook works with outside analytics firms to match what Facebook knows with what the retailers have on you and what you bought. Your name isn't attached to this, but it may still feel creepy.
Not every piece of data is used to target advertising, at least not yet. For example, the company recently introduced "nearby friends," which lets you share your exact location with your Facebook buddies so you can meet up. So far, you won't see ads targeted to you based on the street corner you are standing on, but it's easy to see how this could happen one day.
In the coming weeks, Facebook will start offering advertisers another way to tailor ads in the U.S., based on information gathered from other websites you visit and the apps you use. This is called interest-based advertising, and Facebook says "many companies already do this." (continued...)
© 2014 Associated Press under contract with NewsEdge. All rights reserved.