What Facebook Knows About Us

 

So I’m reading this opinion piece in The New York Times (Yes, I confess! I read it!) and thinking — hmmm.

Sandy Parakilis, who used to work for Facebook, writes that she knows this behemoth from the inside because she led the effort to fix privacy problems on its developer platform before its 2012 IPO. And she knows for sure, she says, that they don’t give a toss about your privacy. Now, you can judge her arguments on their merits (I’m sure she’s right), but they’re not my point. My point is about this quote:

Facebook knows what you look like, your location, who your friends are, your interests, if you’re in a relationship or not, and what other pages you look at on the web. This data allows advertisers to target the more than one billion Facebook visitors a day. It’s no wonder the company has ballooned in size to a $500 billion behemoth in the five years since its I.P.O.

The more data it has on offer, the more value it creates for advertisers. That means it has no incentive to police the collection or use of that data — except when negative press or regulators are involved. Facebook is free to do almost whatever it wants with your personal information, and has no reason to put safeguards in place.

Okay, no surprise there. Of course I’m especially interested in this, for many reasons, but one of them is that I’d like to see serious, well-constructed research — not idle speculation — that would allow us to form reasonable assessments about whether this kind of targeted advertising on Facebook is effective. Might we be able to form non-totally-random conclusions about the probability that a Russian Facebook-ad buying blitz (or a Trump buying blitz, or a Hillary blitz) persuaded so much as a single voter to change his or her mind about anything, no less the way he or she would vote?

Don’t get distracted by “the Russians,” though — that’s a tangent: I’m just explaining why the question especially interests me. I assume this advertising works, or people wouldn’t spend money on it. But do I actually have any evidence of this? No. Facebook probably does. But does anyone else?

And here’s where I get especially doubtful. I don’t have access to their data, or to the data of other people they’re showing ads, but I do know what ads they show me. Judging by these (which, admittedly, is not the right way to judge, it’s a tiny anecdote in an ocean of data), their targeting is ridiculously bad. I reckon any human, even a child, who reads my Facebook page regularly would do way better. What might we hypothesize from this about the real state of their ability to microtarget ads effectively based on the extensive data they collect?

I put this question on my own Facebook page yesterday and then kicked myself, because obviously if I want a useful answer, Ricochet is the place to ask. The question below is roughly what I wrote. Maybe you guys can at least steer me toward the state-of-the-art academic research, or suggest who might know where I’d find that research.

Given that Facebook does know what I look like, my location, who my friends are, my interests, whether I’m in a relationship, and what other pages I look at on the web — not to mention what I buy — why on earth do they think Claire Berlinski’s going to go big time for “Zanzea Women Plus Harem Loose Pants?” (And I’m actually offended by that. They do have pictures of me, after all. “Woman Plus?”)

Why do they think Claire Berlinski would want to “Discover the London cultural season with the fashion historian Amber Butchart?” Why would she be entranced by “l’interprétation du Tourbillon de la vie par Keira Knightley pour la plus irrésistible des collections de CHANEL Joaillerie,” or keen to know more about “The Incredible Story Of The 61 Year Old Makeup Artist Turned Super Model Who Is Now Changing The Way We View Beauty with Her New Makeup Line?”

What on earth have I ever said or done on Facebook — or anywhere on the Internet, or anywhere in the world, for that matter — that would give anyone, even a machine, the impression that I’m remotely interested in that? Those of you who know me in real life will be doubly doubled-over with laughter at this point. You know that I’m to fashion and makeup as kryptonite is to Superman. I am not only the least chic woman in Paris but in all of the Milky Way. The only reason I don’t regularly head up Mr. Blackwell’s list of “worst-dressed women” is that you have to at least try to be well-dressed to make it. As anyone who knows me in person will confirm, nothing comes between me and my Calvins — just so long as by “Calvins” you mean “some cruddy old pair of sweatpants that isn’t so badly covered in cat yak and cat fur that I’m genuinely worried I’ll be sectioned if I go out to buy a loaf of bread wearing them.” (That’s my standard: “Will I be locked up in a mental hospital if I wear this?”)

As for expensive jewelry, you’ve got to be kidding me. The only valuable jewelry I’ve ever owned, my great-grandmother’s wedding ring, was stolen by Maoist-Kurdish-separatist-PKK-slave-urchins. (Probably.) I’ve never replaced it. Make-up? I’m allergic to it. That’s why you never see me in it, unless I’m on television — and it’s why whenever I’m on television my eyes are so red I look like I’m on PCP. Even if I weren’t allergic to it, I hate it. I own the same stick of concealer I’ve owned since I was fifteen. I keep it in case of a major zit and a television appearance. If I have to put it on, I count the seconds until I can wash it off.

Anyone who knows me at all, in person, would know these are ridiculous ads to show Claire Berlinski. What’s more, as far as I can see, my friends are no more interested in these things than I am. I mean, I don’t know them all in real life, but I sure know that if any friend of mine starts nattering on about celebrity makeup artists, I’ll lapse on the spot into a coma of boredom.

I don’t buy these things. I don’t post articles about them. And I never click on these ads. Because I am just. Not. Interested. So what does Facebook know about me that makes them think I’m not the woman I think I am?

If I wanted Claire Berlinski’s money, and if I had all the data Facebook’s got about her, here’s what I’d do: First, I’d look at all the book reviews she’s read lately and all the books she almost bought — to the point of putting them in the basket — but which she decided, at the last minute, not to buy. (They should easily be able to figure out, too, from my purchasing history and what I’ve done since my last impulse-splurge, that the reason I couldn’t pull the trigger was because I thought, “No, Claire, you can’t buy any new books until you finish reading the last ones you impulse-bought and never so much as opened.”)

If I were Facebook I’d be showing me ads, over and over again, not only for those books, but for the ones they could easily figure out — based on what I keep reading and writing and posting about — that I’d find near-irresistible. Why are they showing me Oversized Harem Pants when they could be tempting me with this?

I mean, you guys know me well enough that you know full well that if I see that ad often enough, I’ll crack, right? It’s so obvious. I’ve given them so much information that adds up to, “Show her that ad. Over and over. She can’t hold out more than a week. She’ll hit the button.”

One of my worries, based on the amount of data they clearly do have about me (because I no longer make even a desultory effort to keep it from them, or anyone) is that they actually do know something about me that I don’t. I mean, could they be right? You know how Facebook can supposedly figure out that you’re pregnant even before you do? What do they know about me and “Plus-Sized Loose Harem Pants” that I don’t? Are they checking out the number of times I order pizza and counting the minutes I spend reading The New York Times’ latest pumpkin pie recipes and figuring, “She’s gonna need them soon enough?”

Is there any way they could be checking my photos out against my friends’ profiles, and adding it up with my Twitter feed, weighing it up with time I spend almost-buying books on Amazon, looking at all the sites on the Internet where I waste my days flipping through article after article desultorily, and figuring, “Typical. Age 49. By February she won’t be able to keep her (increasingly fat) fingers off ‘l’interprétation du Tourbillon de la vie par Keira Knightley pour la plus irrésistible des collections de CHANEL Joaillerie.’ Start priming her now, because she’s so headed there. Didn’t you see the way she gobbled up that article about Martin Schulz’s fight for the future of the SPD? Not one woman in that demographic who read that whole boring article from start to finish failed to buy the Chanel jewelry within six months. And she devoured that “Stop sugarcoating the housing market” article in the Economist (which she read not just once, but twice), and she nearly — but didn’t — post it to her Facebook page. That’s solid. We’ve run this scenario often enough to know for sure that 87.3 percent of the white women in Paris with seven cats who read that article (twice) and who nearly (but didn’t) post it to Facebook will buy anything Keira Knightley flogs. Get Keira to sell her something expensive, too: She’ll be in for something big, don’t bother with the ads for a revolutionary new cat litter box or a microwave, no matter how much she thinks she needs a new microwave.” (And surely they know I need that: How many more times to I have to search “why is my microwave making that scary noise” and “microwave+consumer reports” before they get the hint?) But they never show me the ads. “Oh, and guys: check out her photos: The makeup? Seriously? We’d be doing her (and the world) a mitzvah if we got her to do something about that oily T-zone, that is is so totally unnecessary. Send in the 61-Year-Old-Makeup-Artist. She’ll crack. After all, she did post that article about the NSA’s data trove on Americans — twice! — and all the data tells us that women who read Conor Friedersdorff when they’ve got really bad insomnia and worry about the NSA hoovering up metadata on Americans just cannot resist make-up tips from a 61-year-old supermodel. Odds on a purchase: 77.86 percent.”

So am I doomed to buy this stuff? How exactly do they know?

And what on earth do they know — it’s clearly something I don’t — that made them show these ads to me today?

I mean … they do have access to information I don’t. So how do you imagine I should bring this up? “Honey, you seem great to me, but Facebook thinks you’re emotionally unavailable. And it kind of sounds like they think this thing we’ve got going here is a dumpster-fire-in-prospect. That’s a little worrying, since they know what you do when I’m not around. And I don’t. Maybe we should talk?”

But seriously — and some of you guys would probably have pretty good insight into the state of Facebook’s AI and the way these algorithms are apt to work — what on earth is keeping them from taking the information about me that any human who looks at my Facebook page would, putting it together with all the other information they have about what I read, what I buy, and where my attention lingers, and showing me ads that I would find utterly irresistible?

I bet every one of you could guess what ads might tempt me to push the button. Give it a try in the comments. And I bet none of you would think, “Oversized Harem Pants.” And you’d all be right. 

What ads do you see on your Facebook pages — or on the other parts of the Internet where these ads are supposedly so perfectly integrated with your personal data, in such a diabolically cunning way, as to to make you unable to resist clicking on them?

Are they things you might ever buy? Do they even make sense?

If not, why do you think that is?

 

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  1. Valiuth Member
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    I assume this advertising works, or people wouldn’t spend money on it. But do I actually have any evidence of this? No. Facebook probably does. But does anyone else?

    It does work but it isn’t a linear relationship between money spent and results gotten. It is entirely possible even probable that people are over spending on advertising. Facebook, Google, Twitter etc. have no reason to not encourage people to overspend. The whole assumption that 100k of add buys by Russia could swing an election is the best advertising Facebook could get. If the Russians can do that with 100K imagine what the Dems will do with 1B in Facebook adds come 2020! I can just here the gleeful laughter of the add manager at Facebook, who will probably through up wads of hundred dollar bills and then roll around naked on them in joy come next election season.

    As for the adds stalking you. Well there are add blockers, or you can do what I do which is to go around looking at websites selling lingerie and bikinis, so that way the algorithms make sure half my pop up adds are of sexy Brazilian models. I’m sure there has to be the equivalent for women. Then you have nothing to worry about, other than ogling hunky men in speedos (if that is your thing).

     

    • #31
  2. Chuck Enfield Inactive
    Chuck Enfield
    @ChuckEnfield

    The difficulty of well-targeted advertising is suggested by observing Amazon.com.  When I shop for an item on Amazon I start seeing ads for similar items on theirs and other websites.  I suspect the merits of this approach are apparent to almost everybody – I told them what I was interested in, so showing me related ads makes perfect sense.  That said, there are some obvious ways even this approach can be improved.

    Sometimes after shopping for a product on Amazon I buy one.  And sometimes that product, say a refrigerator, is the kind of thing a person buys infrequently.  Nonetheless, after buying a product like that I continue to see adds for similar products for the next week or two.  Another way they could improve advertising is by recognizing that people buy gifts.  I placed an Amazon order last week and my wife asked me to add a package of women’s underwear to the order.  Sure enough, I’ve been seeing adds for women’s underwear all week.

    Even if I assume the population of men who wear women’s underpants or people who buy a refrigerator every week are larger than I think, it’s likely that there are more effective ads that could appear in that limited real estate.  The logic behind data analytics to avoid mistargeted ads like these is pretty obvious, yet Amazon, one of the companies credited as an innovator in Big Data, seems to be missing it.  Why?  My guess is because while collecting lots of data is easy, making good use of it is much harder.

    • #32
  3. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Claire,

    Now that we have clearly established the difference between data and knowledge, let’s review. First, although you might look fetching in harem pants, although this isn’t my general impression of your preferred style, the “plus-size” concept seems very odd. Unless it was raining and you pulled the damn things up over your head.

    As for super-models and their magic make-up that will change the way we view beauty, I personally would be interested in attempts to change the way we view the sublime but that’s just me. I often get book suggestions from Amazon. They aren’t too far off but I haven’t actually considered any of them except for one of your father’s older writings on mathematics. Why don’t they send me this?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #33
  4. Justin Hertog Inactive
    Justin Hertog
    @RooseveltGuck

    Bob W (View Comment):

    If you log out of FB when you’re not using it, do they stop tracking your internet use?

    No they don’t stop tracking you.

    • #34
  5. Justin Hertog Inactive
    Justin Hertog
    @RooseveltGuck

    Patrick McClure (View Comment):

    Mike Rapkoch (View Comment):
    Here’s a bit more from Mr. Parker:

    New advances in the life sciences are allowing humans to “live much longer, more productive lives,” Parker said during an Axios cancer innovation event at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. “Because I’m a billionaire, I’m going to have access to better healthcare so… I’m going to be like 160 and I’m going to be part of this, like, class of immortal overlords.”

    Citing the nature of compound interest to accumulate exponentially, he continued, “Give us billionaires an extra hundred years and you’ll know what … wealth disparity looks like.”

    Am I a bad human for hoping his driver-less car gets stalled on a railroad track just before the 5:05 freight comes blasting through?

    Parker sounds like a moron.

    • #35
  6. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Justin Hertog (View Comment):
    Am I a bad human for hoping his driver-less car gets stalled on a railroad track just before the 5:05 freight comes blasting through?

    Justin,

    To dream the impossible dream. No Justin you are not a bad human. You are a visionary.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #36
  7. Phil Turmel Inactive
    Phil Turmel
    @PhilTurmel

    Justin Hertog (View Comment):

    Bob W (View Comment):

    If you log out of FB when you’re not using it, do they stop tracking your internet use?

    No they don’t stop tracking you.

    Not only do they not stop tracking you after you log out, but they use the “Like” buttons scattered all over the internet to track you whether you log in or not.  Even non-members.  If you log in to Facebook after browsing all over the internet, you’ve simply given FB confirmation of the identity to attach to your previous and future browsing.  If you allow any network traffic between your machine and any machine owned by FB, they’re tracking you.

    • #37
  8. Justin Hertog Inactive
    Justin Hertog
    @RooseveltGuck

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    Justin Hertog (View Comment):
    Am I a bad human for hoping his driver-less car gets stalled on a railroad track just before the 5:05 freight comes blasting through?

    Justin,

    To dream the impossible dream. No Justin you are not a bad human. You are a visionary.

    Regards,

    Jim

    Jim I was the one who though Parker was intellectually impaired. Mike gets credit for the driverless car thing.

    • #38
  9. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Justin Hertog (View Comment):

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    Justin Hertog (View Comment):
    Am I a bad human for hoping his driver-less car gets stalled on a railroad track just before the 5:05 freight comes blasting through?

    Justin,

    To dream the impossible dream. No Justin you are not a bad human. You are a visionary.

    Regards,

    Jim

    Jim I was the one who though Parker was intellectually impaired. Mike gets credit for the driverless car thing.

    Mike & Justin,

    Call Max immediately!! We have discovered a flaw in the Ricochet operating system. All I did was highlight the text and hit quote. Imagine, a flaw, an unnoticed imperfection in the programming. Luckily with the extra-special geniuses that will be employed to write the software for the driverless car, this will never happen. Did I mention the check was in the mail?

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #39
  10. Bob W Member
    Bob W
    @WBob

    Justin Hertog (View Comment):

    Bob W (View Comment):

    If you log out of FB when you’re not using it, do they stop tracking your internet use?

    No they don’t stop tracking you.

    How do they do it, then, through cookies ? So you just have to delete cookies as well as log out?

    • #40
  11. Phil Turmel Inactive
    Phil Turmel
    @PhilTurmel

    Bob W (View Comment):

    Justin Hertog (View Comment):

    Bob W (View Comment):

    If you log out of FB when you’re not using it, do they stop tracking your internet use?

    No they don’t stop tracking you.

    How do they do it, then, through cookies ? So you just have to delete cookies as well as log out?

    It’s not just cookies.  The collection of techniques is generally called browser fingerprinting, and is remarkably effective without cookies or IP addresses.  With cookies, you are 100% trackable.  With IP address and browser fingerprint, you are very nearly 100% trackable.

    • #41
  12. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    We consumers are not “giving away the store” because we are offering mostly mundane information in return for a social toolset that is not available otherwise. We are well paid for offering faceless companies info we would not hesitate to tell neighbors if asked.

    “What did you buy yesterday?”

    “Socks and an HDMI cable.”

    “Ooh! Salacious!”

    In return, we keep in touch with relatives and acquaintances better than people did in the era of rotary phones. We keep family up to date with pictures and laugh with friends over amusing anecdotes.

    It’s fashionable to pretend social media is just cat pictures and people insulting each other. But if that’s what you see then you use the tools poorly or dwell in fruitless forums. Billions of people, including a few reasonable folks (such as nearly the entire Ricochet membership), participate in social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest because we do indeed get something valuable in return.

    Sometimes the information we won’t share in face-to-face interactions is quite reasonably shared with robotic advertisers. If your neighbor takes an interest in your underwear, that’s probably cause for concern. If Sears wants to know, why not?

    • #42
  13. Patrick McClure Coolidge
    Patrick McClure
    @Patrickb63

    Justin Hertog (View Comment):
    Jim I was the one who though Parker was intellectually impaired. Mike gets credit for the driverless car thing.

    The funniest thing about this is I have a brother named Mike, and half the time when Mom called me she’d yell for Mike, and when he showed up, she would realize she wanted me and then yell for me.  The driverless car comment was my reaction to Mike Rapkoch’s comment.

    Patrick McClure (View Comment):

    Mike Rapkoch (View Comment):
    Here’s a bit more from Mr. Parker:

    New advances in the life sciences are allowing humans to “live much longer, more productive lives,” Parker said during an Axios cancer innovation event at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. “Because I’m a billionaire, I’m going to have access to better healthcare so… I’m going to be like 160 and I’m going to be part of this, like, class of immortal overlords.”

    Citing the nature of compound interest to accumulate exponentially, he continued, “Give us billionaires an extra hundred years and you’ll know what … wealth disparity looks like.”

    Am I a bad human for hoping his driver-less car gets stalled on a railroad track just before the 5:05 freight comes blasting through?

     

    • #43
  14. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    On LinkedIn, a man appeared on my “People You May Know” list, and it was a man in Paris who I haven’t had contact with in 15 years. In addition, our last contact was through an email address I haven’t used since then. So how do they know I might know him? Many of the others were from my Yahoo mail contacts. So I wrote to LinkedIn to ask how they knew I might know that guy in Paris, and asked if they’d been snooping in my personal emails.

    The girl who replied told me that they had some kind of arrangement with Yahoo, who shared my contacts with them (no answer about the guy in Paris, when my email was not Yahoo). She closed by cheerily telling me, “But don’t worry! We don’t keep your password.”

    • #44
  15. Grosseteste Thatcher
    Grosseteste
    @Grosseteste

    On a tangential note, a recent discovery of mine is the subreddit “savedyouaclick”, which provides summaries of clickbait articles.  The first few items on the feed right now:

    “I Tried The Ketogenic Diet For Weight Loss— Here’s What Happened” | It worked.

    Baby Girl Was Acting Strange, So Mom Planted A Hidden Camera | She recorded the nanny abusing her baby, including by violent shaking, and then started political activism to get a registry for such abusers. Baby is okay. Saved you 31 clicks.

    Kim Kardashian says surrogate didn’t know she was carrying Her and Kanye’s baby?! | Until they asked her to carry their baby

    • #45
  16. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    We consumers are not “giving away the store” because we are offering mostly mundane information in return for a social toolset that is not available otherwise. We are well paid for offering faceless companies info we would not hesitate to tell neighbors if asked.

    “What did you buy yesterday?”

    “Socks and an HDMI cable.”

    “Ooh! Salacious!”

    In return, we keep in touch with relatives and acquaintances better than people did in the era of rotary phones. We keep family up to date with pictures and laugh with friends over amusing anecdotes.

    It’s fashionable to pretend social media is just cat pictures and people insulting each other. But if that’s what you see then you use the tools poorly or dwell in fruitless forums. Billions of people participate, including a few reasonable folks (such as nearly the entire Ricochet membership), participate in social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest because we do indeed get something valuable in return.

    Sometimes the information we won’t share in face-to-face interactions is quite reasonably shared with robotic advertisers. If your neighbor takes an interest in your underwear, that’s probably cause for concern. If Sears wants to know, why not?

    I beg to differ.     Most folks participate because they are under the mistaken impression that it is free and don’t understand the value of the”mundane” information they surrender.  Certainly the multiple billions  earned by Google,  Facebook and the rest should disabuse us of the belief that the data is “mundane” and without value.    There is a huge market out there for this data and we are settling for chump change.   Remember the “Seinfeld” episode where Kramer she’s the coffee shop?   That’s us.

    • #46
  17. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):

    Bob W (View Comment):

    Justin Hertog (View Comment):

    Bob W (View Comment):

    If you log out of FB when you’re not using it, do they stop tracking your internet use?

    No they don’t stop tracking you.

    How do they do it, then, through cookies ? So you just have to delete cookies as well as log out?

    It’s not just cookies. The collection of techniques is generally called browser fingerprinting, and is remarkably effective without cookies or IP addresses. With cookies, you are 100% trackable. With IP address and browser fingerprint, you are very nearly 100% trackable.

    Ach So! Ach So! One always washes one’s browser of cookies. It’s just good internet hygiene. Now, I must employ my secret IP address scrambler. I got it as a prize in my last box of cracker jacks (I think I was eleven). Facebook swine!

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #47
  18. Bob W Member
    Bob W
    @WBob

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):

    Bob W (View Comment):

    Justin Hertog (View Comment):

    Bob W (View Comment):

    If you log out of FB when you’re not using it, do they stop tracking your internet use?

    No they don’t stop tracking you.

    How do they do it, then, through cookies ? So you just have to delete cookies as well as log out?

    It’s not just cookies. The collection of techniques is generally called browser fingerprinting, and is remarkably effective without cookies or IP addresses. With cookies, you are 100% trackable. With IP address and browser fingerprint, you are very nearly 100% trackable.

    If you delete your profile? It sounds like it wouldn’t help. Before I ever had a FB profile, was I any more safe from this than I would be after I had one but then deleted it?

     

    • #48
  19. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Ekosj (View Comment):
    Certainly the multiple billions earned by Google, Facebook and the rest should disabuse us of the belief that the data is “mundane” and without value. There is a huge market out there for this data and we are settling for chump change.

    Social media users did not profit from selling that information before social media. If some clever entrepreneur can establish a way for users to do so, that might be great. Until then, users lose little.

    Microsoft has (unsuccessfully) tried to wean people away from Google by rewarding Bing users monetarily via gift cards and lotteries. Google offers credit for surveys. Eventually, social media users might be better compensated by sheer force of competition, without need of advocacy.

    • #49
  20. Robert McReynolds Member
    Robert McReynolds
    @

    Claire Berlinski, Ed. (View Comment):

    Justin Hertog (View Comment):

    Yes, I think Facebook is doing all those things with our data and selling it.

    I don’t doubt it for a second. I just wonder why they don’t seem to be as good at it — at least in my case — as I’d expect them to be.

    Maybe they are. Perhaps it’s not that FB isn’t good at it, it’s that advertisers haven’t crafted a campaign that speaks to you. There are a few things I know about ads just from a consumer perspective: just because the campaign doesn’t work on you specifically doesn’t mean it doesn’t work on your demographic, whatever it may be.

    • #50
  21. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    I think the merchants who are selling what you’re likely to buy don’t use FB. Yet.

    ?

    • #51
  22. Nick H Coolidge
    Nick H
    @NickH

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):
    It’s not just cookies. The collection of techniques is generally called browser fingerprinting, and is remarkably effective without cookies or IP addresses. With cookies, you are 100% trackable. With IP address and browser fingerprint, you are very nearly 100% trackable.

    For those who want to know more about browser fingerprinting (and how to limit tracking), I’d suggest https://panopticlick.eff.org/ as a starting point. It will tell you how unique your browser fingerprint is. There are also some good browser plugins like Ghostery that will block most obnoxious trackers. Combine it with an ad-blocker and your internet experience will be greatly improved.

    • #52
  23. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    Dems will do with 1B in Facebook adds come 2020!

    Just think of the good things good people could do with $1B.

    Of course dems would rather advertise than accomplish even minor improvement in any 1 of their supposed “care about humanity” projects.

    If Mr. King of FB Zuckerberg cared about humanity…

     

     

    • #53
  24. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Nick H (View Comment):

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):
    It’s not just cookies. The collection of techniques is generally called browser fingerprinting, and is remarkably effective without cookies or IP addresses. With cookies, you are 100% trackable. With IP address and browser fingerprint, you are very nearly 100% trackable.

    For those who want to know more about browser fingerprinting (and how to limit tracking), I’d suggest https://panopticlick.eff.org/ as a starting point. It will tell you how unique your browser fingerprint is. There are also some good browser plugins like Ghostery that will block most obnoxious trackers. Combine it with an ad-blocker and your internet experience will be greatly improved.

    Nick,

    Very, very interesting. Facebook swine!

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #54
  25. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    I know I’m messing with their data.  I block or report as offensive nearly all ads that pop up in my Facebook feed.  I just keep telling them “nope, don’t want to see this, nor that, nor that either.”  Keeps what ads I do see very anodyne.

    Today:  Amazon Echo (which I refuse to buy), ads for some pages my contacts have liked, and some ads for a few upcoming TV or streaming shows I’m not ever going to watch.

    And even those will get blocked if they keep turning up.  I do the same on Instagram.

    • #55
  26. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Nick H (View Comment):

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):
    It’s not just cookies. The collection of techniques is generally called browser fingerprinting, and is remarkably effective without cookies or IP addresses. With cookies, you are 100% trackable. With IP address and browser fingerprint, you are very nearly 100% trackable.

    For those who want to know more about browser fingerprinting (and how to limit tracking), I’d suggest https://panopticlick.eff.org/ as a starting point. It will tell you how unique your browser fingerprint is. There are also some good browser plugins like Ghostery that will block most obnoxious trackers. Combine it with an ad-blocker and your internet experience will be greatly improved.

    Thank you! I’m woefully uninformed. Recently, in my neverending attempts to thwart them, I was browsing with a VPN signed in from the Netherlands. I went to a company’s Facebook page, and up popped my own login screen with my username and password already filled in for my convenience. How??!?

    • #56
  27. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    In analysis, too much information is almost as bad as too little. As often as companies gain access to relevant information about you, they also gain access to fleeting thoughts, errant clicks, and other things which say nothing about you.

    The real danger is in political operatives or miscreants willfully misinterpreting that errant information to abuse you.

    • #57
  28. Phil Turmel Inactive
    Phil Turmel
    @PhilTurmel

    Bob W (View Comment):

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):

    Bob W (View Comment):

    Justin Hertog (View Comment):

    Bob W (View Comment):

    If you log out of FB when you’re not using it, do they stop tracking your internet use?

    No they don’t stop tracking you.

    How do they do it, then, through cookies ? So you just have to delete cookies as well as log out?

    It’s not just cookies. The collection of techniques is generally called browser fingerprinting, and is remarkably effective without cookies or IP addresses. With cookies, you are 100% trackable. With IP address and browser fingerprint, you are very nearly 100% trackable.

    If you delete your profile? It sounds like it wouldn’t help. Before I ever had a FB profile, was I any more safe from this than I would be after I had one but then deleted it?

    It doesn’t help.  Whatever you do with the same computer will be attributed to that old profile and FB will use any information it learns to at least tweak ads for people it thinks you know.  If you’ve never had a profile, FB will still create an anonymous profile on you.  Your browsing habits will generally expose who you know and how closely, so FB will almost certainly ID your family and friends.  All without you ever having a FB account.

    The only way to avoid Facebook’s evil claws is to block all network traffic between your machine(s) and Facebook’s servers.  And any advertising servers that cooperate with Facebook (basically all of them).

    • #58
  29. Phil Turmel Inactive
    Phil Turmel
    @PhilTurmel

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    Nick H (View Comment):

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):
    It’s not just cookies. The collection of techniques is generally called browser fingerprinting, and is remarkably effective without cookies or IP addresses. With cookies, you are 100% trackable. With IP address and browser fingerprint, you are very nearly 100% trackable.

    For those who want to know more about browser fingerprinting (and how to limit tracking), I’d suggest https://panopticlick.eff.org/ as a starting point. It will tell you how unique your browser fingerprint is. There are also some good browser plugins like Ghostery that will block most obnoxious trackers. Combine it with an ad-blocker and your internet experience will be greatly improved.

    Thank you! I’m woefully uninformed. Recently, in my neverending attempts to thwart them, I was browsing with a VPN signed in from the Netherlands. I went to a company’s Facebook page, and up popped my own login screen with my username and password already filled in for my convenience. How??!?

    If you deliberately generate traffic to Facebook, the VPN is a very low hurdle.  If you actually sign in to Facebook, you’ve completely defeated the reason to use a VPN.  The fact that your username and password were filled in is a local browser behavior, not a Facebook thing.  It is generally good to have your browser remember your passwords for you, as it lets you use a different, truly random password at every website.  It is important to have a master password in your browser to protect the others, though, or you’d be vulnerable to local attacks.

    • #59
  30. Bereket Kelile Member
    Bereket Kelile
    @BereketKelile

    There’s another element to Facebook advertising that involves using voter registration data and matching it to Facebook. It’s common in the campaign world and an absolute necessity if you’re doing any kind of voter-targeted advertising. If you’re advertising to voter-matched audiences on Facebook then you can be sure you’re spending your dollars effectively. It eliminates the problem of sending ads to bots or people who just aren’t going to vote.

    I can also be certain the Russian ads had no significant impact on the election because of the size of the spend. A gubernatorial campaign in California would spend $100k in a matter of days and the shelf-life of whatever your communicating only lasts so long. The idea that $100k could’ve had even a measurable impact is stretching reason beyond its limits.

    • #60
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