Picture this – you’re chatting with some friends online and make plans to go to the gym. Next thing you know, your Facebook timeline is filled with ads for protein shakes and local gyms.
Welcome to the world of targeted advertising.
Starting this year, Facebook began collecting data on other websites and apps from Canadian users in order to tailor ads to their likes and interests. This should come as no surprise – Facebook makes money from advertisers, so it’s in the website’s best interest to have its users actually like the ads they are being shown.
READ MORE: Facebook tracks your data on other websites
But what you might not know is that you can see what people, places and things Facebook thinks you are interested in, based on the websites you have visited.
Simply go to the “Settings” tab on your Facebook page – located at the top right-hand side of the page beside the lock icon.
Next, select “Adverts” from the menu on the left-hand side.
Then click the edit button beside “Adverts based on my preferences” and select “Visit preferences.”
Voila – a list of things Facebook has flagged as “things we think you care about.”
Warning: The list can get a little weird depending on what type of things you have been Googling.
For example, under the “Food and drink” section, Facebook lists butter as one of my interests. I don’t know why – I can’t say I have a passion for butter.
But what might come as welcome news to some of you is that you can manually delete items from your list. If you no longer want to see ads about cats, for example, just hover your mouse to the right-hand side of the word and you’ll see a delete button.
Canadian users can also opt out of Facebook’s targeted advertising through the Digital Advertising Alliance of Canada’s website.
The good news is this doesn’t just apply to Facebook – you are able to see all of the companies that participate in this type of advertising. The site will run a check to see how many companies have enabled customized ads for your browser and allow you to opt out of some, or all of them.