Most Facebook users aren’t aware that Facebook tracks their interests

Too many Facebook users aren’t aware that the company uses the information provided by them and their actions on the platform and outside of it to create a list of their traits and interests, which is then used by to target them with relevant ads.

facebook tracking

The survey

According to the results of a new Pew Research Center surveys, which polled a representative sample of US-based, adult Facebook users:

  • 88% discovered that the site had generated some material for them.
  • 74% say they did not know about the platform’s list of their interests (ad preferences page) before being directed to it for the purposes of the survey.
  • 60% of Facebook users have 10 or more categories listed on their ad preferences page.
  • 59% say these categories reflect their real-life interests, 27% say they are not very or not at all accurate in describing them.
  • 51% say they are not comfortable that the company created such a list.

“There is clear interplay between users’ comfort with the Facebook traits-assignment process and the accuracy they attribute to the process,” the research found.

“About three-quarters of those who feel the listings for them are not very or not at all accurate (78%) say they are uncomfortable with lists being created about them, compared with 48% of those who feel their listing is accurate.”

Political and racial affinity labels/categories

When it comes to politics, 51% of the polled users Facebook users (51%) have been assigned a political “affinity” by the site.

Of those, 73% say the platform’s categorization of their politics is very or somewhat accurate, and 27% say it describes them not very or not at all accurately.

“In addition to categorizing users’ political views, Facebook’s algorithm assigns some users to groups by ‘multicultural affinity,’ which the firm says it assigns to people whose Facebook activity ‘aligns with’ certain cultures. About one-in-five Facebook users (21%) say they are assigned such an affinity,” the report also noted.

“The use of multicultural affinity as a tool for advertisers to exclude certain groups has created controversies. Following pressure from Congress and investigations by ProPublica, Facebook signed an agreement in July 2018 with the Washington State Attorney General saying it would no longer let advertisers unlawfully exclude users by race, religion, sexual orientation and other protected classes.”

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