How advertisers are tracking you on social media

Advertisers target their ads based on your social media activity and even sometimes your private conversations

Advertisers target their ads based on your social media activity and even sometimes your private conversations

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – It’s likely happened to all of us with a social media account.

One minute you’re shopping online, and the next minute, your social media applications are showing you advertisements for those same products.

It’s called targeted advertising, and for many people, it sparks concern about their privacy.

Social media experts say everything you do online or on social media is being tracked, and you should always be concerned about your privacy.

Every search, every purchase, every like is stored in what’s called a “browser cookie” — a small piece of code that lets advertising networks and websites share what you are looking at.

“If you see a targeted ad on Facebook, you may also see that ad on Google or LinkedIn. It’s not unusual because they’re all kind of sharing that information,” said Adam Earnheardt, chair of Youngstown State University’s Communications Department.

In some cases, it goes even beyond what you’re searching for online. Things that you say on Facebook messenger or even through text messages can be tracked as well.

“It’s very possible that you could be doing something very innocuous like sending out a text, not realizing that that text is somehow linked to some other platform that you’re using. They’re collecting that data, and then they shape and target an ad that’s cultivated for you,” Earnheardt said.

Many people, like YSU student Lincoln Williams, see this as an invasion of privacy.

“If you’re on a phone conversation and then you get on social media and see that same content that you were talking about on a phone conversation comes up, it’s a little bit more privacy invading,” Williams said.

Lanae Ferguson agreed.

“Then I’m thinking, ‘Do I need to hide my electronics when I go talk to people?'” Ferguson said.

What people may not know is that there is a way to stop online targeted ads from happening.

“Probably one of the coolest ways you can do this is through something called the Digital Advertiser’s Alliance Tracking Opt-Out tool,” Earnheardt said. “It will automatically look at all the ways these platforms are tracking you, and it will shut them down.”

You can also shut off Facebook targeted ads by going into your settings and selecting “Ads.”

Under “Ad settings,” you’ll see “Ads based on my use of websites and apps setting.”  Click “Edit” and then turn everything off.

Change “Ads with social actions” to “no one.”

You only have to do this once, and it will apply to every gadget where you sign in with the same Facebook username.

Facebook will still show you targeted ads based on information it collects about you, but it won’t get any of your information from its partners and it shouldn’t send any to advertisers.

Advertisers say targeting on social media isn’t meant to be malicious. It’s just a way to draw a user back to a website to purchase a product they were looking at.


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