Facebook has promised more transparency about ads on its platform, but the majority of users are still in the dark about the kind of information that’s been collected on them.
That’s according to a study released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center, a Washington, DC-based think tank. The vast majority of users surveyed (74 percent) said they were not aware that Facebook lists their interests for advertisers and that these interests can be found in the “ad preferences” page on user profiles. Those preferences run the gamut from pop culture, consumer purchases and “likes” to “multicultural affinity” and political labels.
More than half (51 percent) of users said they were not comfortable with Facebook making such a list.
One in five Facebook users (21 percent) report they are listed as having “multicultural affinity,” the Pew Research survey found. Of those, 43 percent were assigned an affinity to African-American culture and 43 percent assigned Hispanic culture, and 10 percent were assigned an affinity with Asian-American culture.
“Facebook’s detailed targeting tool for ads does not offer affinity classifications for any other cultures in the US, including Caucasian or white culture,” Pew researchers said in the report.
Roughly half (51 percent) of those in this survey are given a political label. Some 73 percent of those assigned a label on their political views say the listing “very accurately or somewhat accurately” describes their views, Pew said.
“These findings relate to some of the biggest issues about technology’s role in society,” said Lee Rainie, director of internet and technology research at Pew Research Center. “They are central to the major discussions about consumer privacy, the role of micro-targeting of advertisements in commerce and political activity, and the role of algorithms in shaping news and information systems.”
After a scandal surrounding how Facebook data was used by firm Cambridge Analytica to influence the 2016 elections, Facebook has promised to better educate users about how its data is collected and shared. Facebook is under federal investigation for privacy violations resulting from the Cambridge Analytica involvement.
Despite these scandals, Facebook actually does provide “lots of options for users to control their ad preferences,” said Abhishek Iyer, technical marketing manager at Cupertino, Calif., security firm Demisto. But it apparently has not communicated these tools well enough to users, he added, if only one in four users are aware of the ad preferences page.
“If we accept the premise…