Don’t you sometimes feel like an FBI agent is monitoring all your online activities? You may get the urge to eat something at midnight and search for the food and suddenly get an ad for a similar food on your newsfeed. The spookiest part – this ad follows you everywhere on the internet – on Instagram, Facebook and even on your phone’s music player. To understand how and which of our data are used, we’ll walk you through the whole process and also tell you how it can benefit us, and how it’s used for creating paid ads.
With the rising online privacy concerns – it is essential to equip yourself with knowledge. Further, you can opt-out of providing access to certain information to Facebook. Let’s see what Facebook does and how.
How Does Facebook Collect Your Information?
The simple answer – in many ways, from various sources. Not only what you share on Facebook – Facebook is clever enough to integrate itself into several platforms to gather our data. This helps Facebook get clear idea about the users.
Here are some places they target:
What you provide: You provide your basic information when signing up for a Facebook account. Facebook holds onto that. However, your IP address and the like are something you cannot hide even if you offer fake information. So, it is not only what you provide manually – a lot of technical factors related to what you give Facebook access to and what it can know.
From your public posts: This should come as given. Public posts are information nobody minds giving to Facebook. And of course, the clever Facebook makes the best use of it by keeping track of what you post, and your keywords too potentially. All these give Facebook a clear idea about your interests and what you generally talk and post about.
Your Facebook searches: Yes, when you search something on Facebook, you leave footprints – in fact, you get overwhelmed by the number of results you receive in seconds. However, it doesn’t end there. Log out of Facebook and you’ll see the same type of things popping up on your newsfeed and even as advertisements. So, Facebook keeps a close eye on what you search, because, well – you probably need it and someone out there wants to give it to you as well.
The time you spend on posts: What do you like more? Watching a series of videos, or, simply having quick looks at images and memes? Perhaps, digging through long posts crammed with information? Whichever you like – Facebook keeps track.
If you’re into images, you’ll get more images on your newsfeed. If you watch videos more, your newsfeed will be filled with it. Thus, if you’ve been stalking your crush / friend a lot, their posts will appear more on your newsfeed. You’d find them even if you aren’t looking. The ones you search or watch the least would almost always stay away.
Ever wonder why you only see some people’s content – maybe 10 to 15 out of the hundreds of friends you have on your profile? Here’s why – you suddenly visit a profile and see they were active but you saw no sign of them ever on your newsfeed.
Your likes and reacts: Well, this is something you expected, isn’t it? When you like or react to something – similar things come up as suggestions or posts. Even when your friends upload something and it gets a lot of reacts, that post makes it to your newsfeed. You also get ads based on what you react to.
Your Messenger: This is where it gets scary. Yes, Facebook has full access to your messages – however, it doesn’t use the access for advertising. Facebook knows about your messages to keep track of dangerous things being said. If you’re plotting against your government, well… Facebook knows it, and can use it against you at some point.
Other sites you let Facebook take a part in: You certainly have come across sites that ask you to create an account and you often logged in using Facebook. Can you guess what Facebook does here? Collects your data, of course. You allow Facebook to collect your information by logging into other sites using it.
Instagram posts: What you search on Instagram finds you on Facebook. And the same happens when you search on Facebook. Facebook now owns Instagram and has access to everything you do on Instagram.
Your android phone: When you agree to the terms and agreements, you can provide Facebook access to your contacts, photos, records, texts, and so forth. Facebook knows the amount of charge on your phone too. However, it doesn’t always use this data – especially not for advertising or suggesting friends.
As you can see, Facebook collects your data in many ways and you didn’t even know about it. Sure, if you read through the terms of Facebook, you’d know, but who reads them anyways, right?
What Does Facebook Use This Data For?
To provide you the perfect experience: Facebook doesn’t want to lose you, so it tries to keep you happy. While we don’t like to show our darker sides – we don’t mind letting the light stuff getting used. So Facebook uses your data to provide you a newsfeed filled with exactly what you love.
To provide you with ads that may interest you: If you were searching for something, you’d probably still need it. That’s why, Facebook helps you by suggesting that exact thing. You’d find ads on stuff you tend to like or search.
For Paid Advertising: Facebook, by collecting user’s data, detects who might be a potential customer for a company paying Facebook for ads. This helps the company narrow down the ad audience to its target audience and potential customers. As a result, the advertisement is more effective as it reaches the right people. When more people watch and click the ad – Facebook earns.
Facebook mainly earns by getting paid after every 1000 clicks or more. They even determine the number of clicks beforehand and the rate is usually fixed. You get to choose the reach range as well.
How Do You Benefit From It?
You use Facebook for Free: Do you even realize how convenient Facebook has made your life? Everything is about a click away and it’s all possible due to Facebook. The best part – you don’t even pay for it… well, not with money, at least. You exchange your information, which is a very small price to pay if you’re not doing anything harmful.
After that, Facebook gets paid by companies for its use of information in the best possible way.
You get exactly what you want: Although you may find it creepy –finding something the moment you’re searching for it is pretty useful, isn’t it? So, Facebook doesn’t only benefit the companies paying it but you as well. It reduces the time you spend searching for things and it also directs ads that mean something to you. As a result, it’s a big win-win.
What Can You Do If You’re Not Happy With The Access?
On a non-professional level – the first thing you can do to protect yourself from being spied is read the terms and agreements carefully. If you don’t, it’s on you.
Other than that, go to the settings on your profile, and click “Your Personal Information”. You’ll see a long list of things Facebook has access to, alongside a checkbox on the right.
You can opt out from providing the information you don’t simply by removing the tick on the checkboxes.
Apart from that, consider not sharing anything sensitive online. Because it’s not always Facebook that sneaks in, hackers do too.
The online world is a dangerous space and it never hurts to know. Facebook has access to information that we sure don’t want them to. That being said, we’re so invested in Facebook, giving up is not a viable option anymore. So what we can do is be careful about it and know as much as we can.
Share stuff online very carefully and you won’t be troubled by what Facebook knows. Facebook collects information from millions of others just like you, and this information is never used outside of paid advertising. So no, you’re not being put under a microscope.