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Stop Facebook From Using Your Information for Advertising

This article was written by in Consumer. 10 comments.


I generally don’t buy clothing that displays noticeable branding. I’m not completely immune from allowing my body to be used as a billboard, however. Although I don’t wear shirts emblazoned with “GAP” across the front, someone who checks me out from the back might see a Lee or Levi’s label. Some shirts might have a small logo sewn into the chest. Although I try to keep it to a minimum, I’m not completely free of advertising when I walk down the street.

If brands wanted customers to be advertisers, they should pay those customers rather than requiring those customers to buy the products. It doesn’t work that way, for the most part. In some cases, you can sell ad space on your body, but then the advertising itself becomes a story.

Some brands, even those with hardly noticeable logos-slash-advertising, are perceived as exclusive, and customers feel proud when they can show off the brands. It’s a subtle way of showing the world that you belong in a certain club, and from a psychological perspective, it’s comforting. Facebook uses this to their advantage to drive revenue from advertisers, but when you wear a shirt for a logo, at least you know that you’re part of an advertising campaign. With Facebook, you might not know.

FacebookEverything you “like,” Facebook is watching you, and if what you “like” corresponds with one of Facebook’s advertisers, your face could be seen in sponsored items in people’s news feeds or in Facebook’s sidebar ads. Furthermore, the more things you “like,” the better idea Facebook has on what ads it can show you.

If you “like” something ironically or as a joke, Facebook assumes its an endorsement, and unless your account settings prevent it, your smiling face might appear next to embarrassing products.

Here’s how you can prevent your actions from appearing in the advertising the website delivers to your friends.

Facebook account settingsStep 1: Go to your general account settings. In the upper right-hand corner of the Facebook screen, hover your mouse pointer over the downward facing caret and select “Account Settings.”

Click on the image to the right to zoom in.

This will bring you to the General Account Settings page where you can edit your basic information. If your email address or your name changes, you can use this page to adjust your settings.

Facebook ads settingsStep 2: Go to your Facebook Ads settings. On the left side of the screen, Facebook presents you with a navigation menu. Click on the label for “Facebook Ads.”

Step 3: Disable third-party ads. On the resulting page, there are two sections of concern. First is the “Ads shown by third parties” section. Click the “Edit third party ad settings” link first.

Facebook will warn you that they don’t currently allow third party companies to use your name or pictures in ads, but they might in the future. Be proactive and disable this now. Select “No one” and click the “Save Changes” button.

Facebook third party ads

Step 4: Disable social ads. When companies buy advertising on Facebook, one way they reach you, a potential customer of that advertiser, is displaying an ad to you whenever a friend of yours decides to share with his or her Facebook friends that he or she “likes” that product. If you have an ad-blocking extension installed on your web browser, you may not notice this, but an ad-block extension won’t prevent what your friends see. Only a Facebook setting change can do that.

Facebook Social Ads SettingsOn the Facebook Ads setting page, click the link labeled “Edit social ads setting.” Where you have the option by, “Pair my social actions with ads for,” select “No one.” Click the button to “Save Changes.”

Step 5: Bonus. To completely remove the influence of advertising in your daily Facebook pursuits, you’ll need to complete one more step. In the navigation menu on the left of your screen, click the link for “Security.” The best setting for tighter privacy is only in effect after you click the link on the resulting page to “Deactivate your account.” In the real world, we don’t expect complete privacy from corporate marketers. They find us wherever we are, even if we are “off the grid.” At least on Facebook, you can remove yourself from the world without affecting your life much, if you so choose.

And now’s a good time to bring some Facebook privacy concerns to people’s attention. More and more, you don’t even have to “like” something for your friends to see your activity. In some cases, just reading an article or watching a video while logged into Facebook creates an item that tells your friends exactly what you’re doing. If you’re an active Facebook user, you’ve probably noticed “social reader” and “socialcam” application items in your news feed, sometimes with pretty embarrassing items. The above steps other than Step 5 don’t prevent applications you use from sharing your activity with your friends, however. That requires yet another Facebook setting to modify, and the settings could differ depending on the application.

Photo: kudumomo

Published or updated June 1, 2012. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Kurt @ Money Counselor

Thanks for these tips on Facebook, done for my account.

I’m of like mind on paying money for the “privilege” of displaying a corporate brand on my body. I keep looking for a hat or T-Shirt with the simple message: “This space for rent. Inquire.”

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avatar Melissa

I just learned about this yesterday and made the changes. It seems we will have to keep an eye on Facebook now that they have gone public and may have to come up with more ways to make money.

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avatar Brian

I too try to keep advertising on my clothing down to a minimum. Always felt it was a racket that these clothes manufactures get away with charging people to advertise their brand, but if it works it works.

Funny enough there is an ad to the right of this comment box with several peoples faces that like some weird Facebook page. Good to know how to avoid this, thanks.

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avatar Lance@MoneyLife&More

I really should pay more attention to things like this. Thanks for pointing it out and I have disabled the options for my account.

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avatar Maggie@SquarePennies

Sigh. I’d hate to see my face on an ad. I guess we have to be eternally vigilant. Thanks for the information!

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avatar qixx ♦1,890 (Half-Dollar)

Now is probably a good time to review all of your Facebook privacy settings. Every time i hear facebook and settings together i try to review all my facebook settings. I just don’t trust facebook not to change things on me.

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avatar Joe Morgan

My first recollection of advertising was 9th grade. I had an art teacher who remarked on the attire of one of my classmates who wore a T-shirt with some company logo displayed prominently on the front.

He asked the student how much he was being paid. The student just looked back, dumbfounded. The teacher pointed to his shirt and said, “how much are they paying you to be a walking billboard?”

It was then I realized how screwed up the whole thing was… not only was the company NOT paying for the advertisement, but the billboard in question was paying them!

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avatar Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog

thanks for the advice flexo. I never like things on facebook for that reason. Even if they dont use my face for the ad, they’ll still sell the info to advertisers.

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avatar Sherry Tingley

One of the first billboards I saw as I traveled to Amman Jordan from America, was a billboard that had a Kentucky Fried Chicken sign and a Facebook sign. Advertising seems to be everywhere. I have always thought that the database that Facebook has on people is the most detailed advertising list anyone could have. I am not sure that is all bad though because at least we are pitched for things we are interested in.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,470 (Platinum)

Now imagine that you’re driving along the road and you see a billboard with your face on it, endorsing some product you happen to have told your friends you like. That’s sort of like what Facebook does when it uses your picture to endorse products you’ve “liked” in Facebook.

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