All of the Creepy Things Facebook Knows About You

Facebook knows more about your personal life than you probably realize. As part of the company’s increasingly aggressive advertising operation, Facebook goes to great lengths to track you across the web. The company compiles a list of personal details about every user that includes major life events and general interests. For years, details have been murky about how exactly the social network targets ads—but the company has finally given us a glimpse into how the secret sauce is made.

Facebook published a targeted ad education portal and updated its ad preference settings to make them easier for users to understand. The tools reveal all 98 personal data points Facebook uses to target adverting at you – and you wouldn’t be wrong to feel a little uneasy about what Facebook knows and uses to sell advertising, though there’s no evidence that anything nefarious is going on here at all. It just feels weird!

There are plenty of obvious characteristics that Facebook knows about its users, such as whether they’re getting married, just returned from vacation, or are about to have a baby. Most of that personal data is collected when people voluntarily post to Facebook or update their profiles.

But then there’s creepier stuff that definitely isn’t submitted voluntarily, such as the number of credit lines you have, whether you’re an investor, what you invest in, whether you carry a balance on your credit card, whether you use coupons, and whether you’re likely to move.

Facebook explains its ability to gather this incredibly detailed personal information in a few ways. First, and most obviously, it tracks your activity on the site, your personal devices, and your location settings. What’s less obvious is that the company also tracks virtually every other website you visit.

As The Washington Post points out, Facebook knows every time you visit a page with a “like” or “share” button. It also gives publishers a tool called Facebook Pixel that allows both parties to track visits from any Facebook user. It also works with companies like Epsilon and Acxiom who gather information from government records, warranties and surveys, and commercial sources (such as a magazine subscription lists) to learn more about Facebook users.

By compiling all of this information, the social media giant can begin to make conclusions about whether you’re likely to be a parent, married, an expat, or intend to buy a vehicle. Then they sell you as a target to advertisers. The assumptions the company makes aren’t always correct, but it doesn’t matter. Facebook built a $355 billion empire almost entirely on this information, and it doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

If you’re curious about all the data points Facebook is using to target ads to you, here’s the full list:

– Location;
– Age;
– Generation;
– Gender;
– Language;
– Education level;
– Field of study;
– School;
– Ethnic affinity;
– Income and net worth;
– Home ownership and type;
– Home value;
– Property size;
– Square footage of home;
– Year home was built;
– Household composition;
– Users who have an anniversary within 30 days;
– Users who are away from family or hometown;
– Users who are friends with someone who has an anniversary, is newly married or engaged, recently moved, or has an upcoming birthday;
– Users in long-distance relationships;
– Users in new relationships;
– Users who have new jobs;
– Users who are newly engaged;
– Users who are newly married;
– Users who have recently moved;
– Users who have birthdays soon;
– Parents;
– Expectant parents;
– Mothers, divided by “type” (soccer, trendy, etc.);
– Users who are likely to engage in politics;
– Conservatives and liberals;
– Relationship status;
– Employer;
– Industry;
– Job title;
– Office type;
– Interests;
– Users who own motorcycles;
– Users who plan to buy a car (and what kind/brand of car, and how soon);
– Users who bought auto parts or accessories recently;
– Users who are likely to need auto parts or services;
– Style and brand of car you drive;
– Year car was bought;
– Age of car;
– How much money user is likely to spend on next car;
– Where user is likely to buy next car;

 - How many employees your company has;
– Users who own small businesses;
– Users who work in management or are executives;
– Users who have donated to charity (divided by type);
– Operating system;
– Users who play canvas games;
– Users who own a gaming console;
– Users who have created a Facebook event;
– Users who have used Facebook Payments;
– Users who have spent more than average on Facebook Payments;
– Users who administer a Facebook page;
– Users who have recently uploaded photos to Facebook;
– Internet browser;
– Email service;
– Early/late adopters of technology;
– Expats (divided by what country they are from originally);
– Users who belong to a credit union, national bank or regional bank;
– Users who invest (divided by investment type);
– Number of credit lines;
– Users who are active credit card users;
– Credit card type;
– Users who have a debit card;
– Users who carry a balance on their credit card;
– Users who listen to the radio;
– Preference in TV shows;
– Users who use a mobile device (divided by what brand they use);
– Internet connection type;
– Users who recently acquired a smartphone or tablet;
– Users who access the Internet through a smartphone or tablet;
– Users who use coupons;
– Types of clothing user’s household buys;
– Time of year user’s household shops most;
– Users who are “heavy” buyers of beer, wine or spirits;
– Users who buy groceries (and what kinds);
– Users who buy beauty products;
– Users who buy allergy medications, cough/cold medications, pain relief products, and over-the-counter meds;
– Users who spend money on household products;
– Users who spend money on products for kids or pets, and what kinds of pets;
– Users whose household makes more purchases than is average;
– Users who tend to shop online (or off);
– Types of restaurants user eats at;
– Kinds of stores user shops at;
– Users who are “receptive” to offers from companies offering online auto insurance, higher education or mortgages, and prepaid debit cards/satellite TV;
– Length of time user has lived in house;
– Users who are likely to move soon;
– Users who are interested in the Olympics, fall football, cricket or Ramadan;
– Users who travel frequently, for work or pleasure;
– Users who commute to work;
– Types of vacations user tends to go on;
– Users who recently returned from a trip;
– Users who recently used a travel app;
– Users who participate in a timeshare.


February 26, 2017

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