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September 21, 2015

Facebook plans to use 'likes' for targeted ads

Company also introduces new way to opt out of targeted advertising

"Liking" a page on Facebook used to be a way to show that you, well, liked something. Now, it will also be a way for companies to figure out which ads to send you.

Facebook announced Tuesday that it will start using data from people's likes and shares for targeted advertising, known as "interest-based advertising."

"We are continuing to roll out online interest-based advertising and will now begin including information from pages that use Facebook's Like button and similar social features, as we announced last year," said Stephen Deadman, Facebook's global deputy chief privacy officer.

Facebook already tracks what websites and apps users visit and funnels that data into targeted advertising. For example, someone who visited a hotel website might later see ads for travel deals on Facebook.

However, using likes and shares for advertising is new, although Facebook has been logging the data for years.

"We hope that the ads people see will continue to become more useful and relevant," said Deadman.

Users can opt out of interest-based advertising (though not all advertising altogether) through the ad settings page. Here are the directions for how to do it on a web browser:

  1. Click on the arrow in the upper-right-hand corner of Facebook.
  2. Select "Settings" to go to the settings page.
  3. Click on "Ads" on the left-side column.
  4. On the row that says "ads based on my use of websites and apps," click "edit," then "choose setting," then "off."

Privacy advocates are still worried, especially because Facebook can track data on any page that has a like button, even if the user never clicked that button.

“Promising not to use information is not the same as promising to actually delete the data,” Rainey Reitman, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the MIT Technology Review.

“The ‘Like’ data is especially problematic," she said. "Most people probably don’t even realize that whenever they load a page with a ‘Like’ button on it, Facebook gets a little information on them.”