White chocolate, silence, and Palmer United. Memes, Kickstarter, and body-fat percentage. Jack Daniel’s bottles wrapped up with string. These are a few of my favourite things! Well, that’s according to Facebook’s ‘ad preferences’ database.
This is a weird, hidden page dedicated to what Facebook knows about you.
And I mean exactly what they know about you, because the page can become awfully specific in its descriptions.
What does Facebook know about you? Here’s how you can find out
1) Open your Facebook Settings by clicking here on the top right hand of your screen.
2) From Settings choose Ads on the left-hand menu.
3) Click ‘Edit’, next to ‘Ads based on my preferences’.
4) Finally, after a mini-warning from Facebook, click ‘Visit Ad Preferences’.
Which brings us to the page itself, called ‘Your Ad Preferences’. Here you’ll find a bunch of categories which you can dig right into, such as Business and Industry, Education, and all the way to your favourite Hobbies and Activities, or even Foods and Drinks.
For example, just like the above absolutely serious examples of topics Facebook thinks I’m into, the social network also, for some reason, thinks I’m interested in Thanksgiving, car rentals, the BMW Mini, socialism, and – best of all – ‘friendship’.
On the other hand, some other suggested topics did seem to be creepily accurate, such as my love for white chocolate and ‘silence’.
How Facebook pulls together information on you
How does Facebook know all of this? Well, that’s the real treat of the Ad Preferences page: they reveal their sources.
For the more obvious topics, Facebook figures out what you like based on pages you’ve Liked. This means that some topics are just related to pages you’ve liked too.
Digging even further, the page reminds us that Facebook keeps track of ads you’ve clicked, which includes sites that feature Facebook features, like comment sections and even ‘like’ buttons.
All of this information, therefore, is collected and built into ‘Your Ad Preferences’ as a secondary Facebook profile available to advertisers.
I suspect that the source of these preferences goes deeper. For example, some topics felt like they were sourced from Facebook Messenger conversations, while another was influenced by an Optus ad I watched, featuring Ricky Gervais.
Privacy advocates have been warning us of Facebook’s reach for years now. Google also keeps a list of topics, including a guess of your age, your gender, and a similar selection of interests. The only difference, really, is that Google and Facebook are actually disclosing how they personalised your personalised ads, while other providers might not.
For your Google Ad Preferences you can click here, or for Facebook you can find out your ‘favourite things’ here.
If you really don’t like something there, you can always remove it, or add more topics if you’re a big ad fan.
Either way, if that doesn’t convince you to disconnect over the holidays, I don’t know what will.