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Originally published June 12, 2014 at 6:17 PM | Page modified June 13, 2014 at 6:50 AM

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Facebook to let users alter their profiles, and follow them more

Facebook is going to let its users see the dossiers of likes and interests it keeps on them, and let them change, add or delete information in those files. But Facebook will also tap data it already collects from people’s smartphones and other websites they visit to hone ad targeting.


The New York Times

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SAN FRANCISCO — If you have ever wondered why Facebook showed you that advertisement for a new iPhone game or a cheap flight to Bermuda, you will soon be able to find out.

Facebook announced Thursday that it is going to give its users the ability to see the dossiers of likes and interests it keeps on them, as well as the ability to change, add or delete information in those files.

And if you don’t like an ad, you will be able to tell the social network what types of marketing messages you would rather see.

But even as Facebook gives users more control, it is foraging deeper into their activity on other sites.

Right now, Facebook’s dossiers are based mostly on people’s activities on Facebook, such as liking brand pages or sharing a funny ad.

But starting next week, the company will also tap data it already collects from people’s smartphones and other websites they visit to hone ad targeting.

Users can opt out of such extended tracking, but they will have to visit a special ad industry website and adjust their smartphone settings to do so.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about data,” said Debra Aho Williamson, who studies social media for the research firm eMarketer and was briefed in advance by Facebook. “Marketers want more data to be able to target people. And Facebook wants more data to make the advertising as relevant as possible.”

For Facebook, giving users more control while digging further into their Internet behavior could be smart business.

“The thing that we have heard from people is that they want more targeted advertising,” said Brian Boland, Facebook’s vice president in charge of ads product marketing. “The goal is to make it clear to people why they saw the ad.”

Facebook’s move also comes as the Federal Trade Commission and the White House have called on Congress to pass legislation that would better protect consumers’ private data, including requiring companies to give people more control over the digital files collected on them.

It is unclear how privacy advocates and public officials will react to Facebook’s efforts to provide more clarity about how its ads work.

Although Facebook will now give its users a way to modify the customer profiles that drive the ads they see, users can’t completely get rid of ads. Users can change, delete or add to the information in their files.

Facebook executives hope that people will choose to improve the accuracy of the information, although people concerned about their privacy could just as easily fill their profiles with fake information.



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