Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Now Facebook’s Targeted Ads Expand to the Web

In 2007, when Mark Zuckerberg introduced Facebook’s first serious advertising initiative to an audience of Madison Avenue executives, he proposed a new approach to marketing: his three-year-old company would use people’s connections with their friends to bring more credibility to ads. “Social actions”—such as “liking” Sprite’s page on Facebook—“are powerful because they act as trusted referrals and reinforce the fact that people influence people,” Zuckerberg said.
Typically, this kind of targeting involves using bits of data called cookies to keep track of the sites you’ve visited. But Facebook also has access to the personal information it gathers through its own site, and it realized that it could use this information to tailor ads on Facebook itself. This approach has made the company’s ad program incredibly successful in the past few years. According the research firm eMarketer, Facebook’s share of worldwide revenue from digital advertising—including both computers and mobile devices—currently stands at eight per cent, second only to Google’s thirty-two per cent. 
All of this is, of course, bound to raise questions about privacy. Facebook points out, as it has in the past, that it doesn’t show your data to the advertiser or to the third-party Web site—it just uses it to target the ad appropriately. A Facebook spokesman also told me that Atlas will give people “control over their ads experience” and “will honor the choices people make via industry-standard opt outs”—that is, it will allow users to ask not to be shown targeted ads. I couldn’t find a description of how these opt-outs will work for the new program on Facebook’s Web site. The spokesman directed me to a privacy policy on a separate Atlas Web site that explains how you can opt out of receiving targeted ads, but the page notes that, even if you opt out of seeing the ads that result from targeting, Atlas will still “collect the same information when you browse the Web, see or click on an advertisement that we deliver or measure, or use one of our advertisers’ apps.”

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