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Facebook announced today it will soon be rolling out a new feature to give users more control when it comes to the types of advertisements they see on the site.

If users are tired of getting barraged with ads for shoes, video games or discount plane tickets, they’ll not only be able to stop the ads, but they’ll also be able to learn why they’re being targeted by them in the first place.

The new ad preferences tool will give users a “Why am I seeing this?” option in a dropdown menu that will explain why users are being targeted with certain ads.

Ads may target a user if they’ve visited a place in the past – i.e. getting beer ads if they’ve visited a brewery site recently. The new tool will also tell users outright when local businesses are simply trying to target users that fall under a specific age group or location.

Users will be able to change, add or delete their own information and how it pertains to how they’re targeted with the new tool.

Currently the information Facebook collects about its users stems from the individual pages they like. The social network announced that going forward however it will shift to an interest-based advertising model, similar to Google, where it mines information from the websites users visit and the apps they use to make the ads it already targets to users smarter.

While this may sound like cause for alarm, especially to those who consider themselves privacy-conscious, the company is hoping the tool will foster transparency and allow users to make their own decisions on how they’re targeted by businesses.

Facebook is already ignoring the Do Not Track setting on web browsers and this move, sure to raise the ire of many, will cement that even further.

Facebook is already ignoring the Do Not Track setting on web browsers and this move, sure to raise the ire of many, will cement that even further.
Users looking to opt out of the new method of advertising – if they haven’t already done so – will have to adjust how their browsers are affected via a portal over at the Digital Advertising Alliance. The DAA’s “AdChoices” program has long overseen the way internet-based advertising finds users.

The tool is expected to roll out to all U.S. Facebook users over the next few weeks – starting today – while an international rollout is expected later this year.

While privacy advocates haven’t weighed in on the feature yet it’s plausible the social media platform’s changes will viewed as minor step in the right direction from a transparency standpoint.

The feature falls in line with requests from the Federal Trade Commission and the White House last month to give users more control over the data companies collect about them.

Two weeks ago the FTC issued a hefty 100-plus page document urging Congress to make it clearer to consumers exactly what kind of information is being gathered from them by large data brokers, asking for legislation “that would enable consumers to learn of the existence and activities of data brokers and provide consumers with reasonable access to information about them held by these entities.”

That report of course came on the heels of a similar report issued by the White House at the beginning of the month that asked for more or less the same thing. The White House report advocated for the passing of national data breach legislation and tweaking the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to help it coincide with modern-day technology practices, among other recommendations.

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Categories: Privacy, Web Security