If you’re an avid Facebook user, chances are you’ve heard a thing or two about Facebook sharing your browsing history — and you may be thinking the worst. Is Facebook stealing your data? Are they selling your images to advertisers? Are they compromising your posts and using them for their gain? Not exactly.
It’s easy to jump to conclusions, especially when Facebook is involved. Clearly, the social network has a controversial history, but this is a little different. First, Facebook clearly knows who you are. However, they don’t always know what you want. This is understandable. People grow up, they change, they have families, buy homes, go backpacking, become vegetarians, support different causes, and so on. Unfortunately, there’s only so much Facebook can learn from what you post, particularly if those posts are just rehashes of what someone else has said or so personal Facebook can’t decode the meaning.
So, by using your browsing history, Facebook gets a glimpse at what you need right now — and by doing so, they can offer you a better advertising experience. For example, you could see an ad every day of the year that prompts you to check out new car insurance. However, in an ideal world, you’d only see the ad when you actually want to renew your car insurance, which is typically once or twice a year. And where do you research new car insurance? Online.
This type of scenario illustrates what Facebook is going for when they look into your browsing history. In most cases, this will be a good thing — particularly for marketers — since you’ll only see ads that interest you. In our example about car insurance, you’re going to get ads that will benefit you, not frustrate you.
Plus, companies making the ads don’t know who you are specifically. While they’re able to target advertisements to people who fit their specifications, they won’t know you need the product or service at that very moment. Clearly, this is much like the retargeting options already available for Facebook advertisers. Again, though you may see an ad for car insurance the same day you searched for the service online, that particular company won’t know your details.
However, if you’re not comfortable sharing your data, you can always opt-out. According to Business Insider, there are multiple ways to do so:
On any web browser, visit the Digital Advertising Alliance opt-out, and in the middle of the page, click on ‘Companies customizing ads for your browser.’ Select the boxes next to the names of companies you no longer wish to receive ads from, and then scroll down and click to submit your choices.
Mobile users will need to additionally opt out of advertising through special control settings embedded in iOS and Android. On iOS, visit the ‘Settings’ app and open up the ‘Privacy’ tab, click on ‘Advertising’ and enable ‘Limit Ad Tracking.’ On Android, Facebook may add this setting as a user preference within the ‘Application Manager’ found in ‘Settings,’ but you can also set up and manage a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on the device that should automatically disallow any browser tracking.”
While it’s easy to paint Facebook as the bad guy, it’s important to understand why they do what they do — to create a better experience for the user.
What do you think? Are you going to opt-out of browser history sharing? Why or why not?