The fact that social networks collect information about their users to serve them with targeted advertising shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who hasn’t lived behind a rock for the past decade. The extent to which Facebook and other social media companies categorize their users based on what they know about them, makes many people uncomfortable though, especially in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal of 2018 that brought to light how that information can be exploited for more than just commercial gain.
According to a recent study published by the Pew Research Center
, Americans are painfully aware of what social networks know about them. The vast majority of adult users think that it would be easy for social media companies to figure out their race/ethnicity, hobbies and interests, political affiliation and religious beliefs based solely on the information they shared on their site.
Seeking to be transparent about its data collection, Facebook offers its users the option to check their ad preferences
, giving them a broad idea of the amount of information it has on them. When confronted with their personal ad preferences page, 74 percent of Facebook users surveyed by Pew said they were previously unaware that such a list existed, and 51 percent stated they weren’t comfortable with Facebook collecting this data.