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Facebook to use browsing history to better target ads, let users alter ad profiles

The extended tracking will come with an opt-out option and privacy control features, in an attempt to appease privacy advocates.
By Ananth Baliga   |   June 12, 2014 at 8:50 AM  |  Updated June 13, 2014 at 1:20 PM   |   Comments

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MENLO PARK, Calif., June 12 (UPI) -- Facebook announced Thursday they will use browsing and mobile app data to provide better ad targeting, and also allow users to alter their ad profiles.

The first change will give advertisers a better idea of users' web habits and help them place better ads on the user's profile. Facebook has been tracking such data, but only for security reasons, and this will be the first time it will use such data for advertising purposes. Ad placements were earlier based on likes and activity within the social network.

"Enhancing interest-based advertising with information from websites and apps people use will improve performance for marketers by making sure your ads go to people who are the most interested in your products and services, and those who are the most likely to respond," read a company blog post.

Users can opt out of this extended tracking with the Digital Advertising Alliance and also by making a few changes to their smartphones.

Facebook will also give users access to their ad profile in an attempt to improve the ads displayed on a user's account. Users can like and dislike specific ads, browse through their choices, and tell the social network what types of marketing messages they would like to see.

"The thing that we have heard from people is that they want more targeted advertising," Brian Boland, Facebook's vice president in charge of ads product marketing, told the New York Times. "The goal is to make it clear to people why they saw the ad."

The change also comes as the Federal Trade Commission urges Congress to pass legislation protecting consumer data, including giving consumers access to personal data collected by companies. The FTC was informed of Facebook's new initiative but had no immediate comment.

"At the end of the day, it's all about data," said Debra Aho Williamson, who studies social media for the research firm eMarketer, told the Times. "Marketers want more data to be able to target people. And Facebook wants more data to make the advertising as relevant as possible."

[CORRECTION: Earlier reports indicated Facebook would share browsing data with advertisers, but the company has clarified that tracking and ad targeting remain internal.]

Follow @antbaliga and @UPI on Twitter.
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