All those hours you spend on Facebook may seem free of charge. But you're essentially paying for it in the currency of your personal information.
That’s because your data is virtually invaluable to advertisers. When it comes to finding a market and fine-tuning a product, the personal information we all put into Facebook is a gold mine. For a price, Facebook uses this information to help marketers target ads to specific groups of people who might be interested.
Unfortunately, not many people realize this as it's so deeply hidden in Facebook's website.
ProPublica has created a Google Chrome extension that allows users to see just how much information Facebook have on you. It’s part of their ongoing series that hopes to give online users a glimpse into the algorithms and data pools which understand, optimize, and monetize your information.
The extension allows you rate the data for accuracy and send ProPublica feedback on how “creepy” you feel it is. But don’t fear, they have said they won’t collect any “identifying details” about you and no information with be shared with third parties.
You can download it for free in the Chrome Web Store. Alternatively, you can see what Facebook knows about you yourself by going to facebook.com/ads/preferences.
Through finding your ad preferences, you can see which themes and ideas Facebooks believes you might like and hence are likely to be seeing adverts for in the near future. Depending on what kind of pages, functions, or people you interact with, algorithms are able to work what types of things you're into, such as your taste in music, if you're a sports fan, and so on. Data on other partnering apps, such as Instagram and WhatsApp, are also linked into Facebook’s pool data.
Last month, the New York Times reported that Facebook even ties you down to a political leaning. If you're in the US, you can reportedly find out yours by the “Lifestyle and Culture” tab under the “Interests” header. Find the box called “US Politics”, and it will then describe you either as liberal, moderate, or conservative.
Head over to ProPublica for information on their series about data security and transparency.