SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — If you haven’t seen a 2020 political campaign ad on Facebook, you probably will soon. This year, more than $105 million has been spent on Facebook ads alone by the presidential campaigns.
Many of the campaigns are using tools called microtargeting to serve the ads to you.
Let’s say you see an ad for Candidate A. Your next-door neighbor also has an ad for Candidate A. It displays a similar message, but is written slightly differently. Meanwhile, your co-worker is seeing an ad for Candidate A. It has the exact same message as you, but the photo is completely different. That’s what microtargeting is all about.
So, why are you, your neighbor and your co-worker all seeing these ads? The messages were designed for a specific person in mind.
There are two ways to see how you’re being targeted by political groups and other advertisers on Facebook.
Why am I seeing this ad?
The first is when you see an ad pop up on Facebook. In the upper-right corner of the add, click or tap the three-button icon. There will be a pop-up that says, “Why am I seeing this ad?”
You will get some general information. Perhaps you visited the advertiser’s website or they’re trying to target people near you.
It’s important to note this isn’t the entire picture. Some information is kept secret by the company.
The second way is by looking at your Ad Preferences (if you’re logged into Facebook, the previous link will take you to the page).
The page is broken down into five categories: your interests, advertisers and businesses, your information, add settings and hide ad topics.
KELOLAND.com Original Reporter Michael Geheren reviews what he found for his account.
This section breaks down what Facebook believes you are interested in the most. A secret algorithm determines these based on how you engage with certain ads or pages.
For instance, it says one of my interests is Veterans. This could be because I recently went on Midwest Honor Flight and have been interacting with the Facebook page a lot.
Another business Facebook believes I am interested in is Whole Foods Market. I’ve been there once or twice, but we don’t have it in South Dakota, so I am not sure why this is on here.
Under the “travel, places and events” tab, it says I am interested in retirement communities. Another I don’t really understand.
However, I see Dogs on the “hobbies and activities tab.” That’s true. I love dogs, especially mine.
Advertisers and Businesses
There are several sections in this group that I want to break down.
Who uploaded a list with your info and advertised to it
The brands or candidates on the first tab have run an ad in the past seven days with a list that has your email address or phone number. Facebook matches either item to a Facebook profile.
Mine has several dentist offices that I have never heard of and a few retailers. The political campaigns that uploaded my email have been: Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and Americans for Prosperity (a conservative political advocacy group funded by the Koch brothers).
Who have uploaded and shared a list with your info
The next tab will probably have a lot of brands you have never heard of. These companies uploaded a list with your information and matched to your Facebook profile.
These places have either paid for your data or collected it. If you click on the brand and choose “advertisers using lists with your info,” you can see which brands have used that list.
An example for me is a company called LiveRamp. Data companies like these pay for your data related to spending habits and even voting habits. For LiveRamp, L.L. Bean, UPS, Fortnite, Sun Basket, MetLife and Target all advertised to me within the last 90 days because of this data.
On a few of these data companies, there is a link called “privacy options.” Many of them allow you to opt-out of their lists.
Whose website or app you may have used
Any brand on this tab means you have been to their website or app. Facebook took note of that and will now serve you ads. This is often why you will see an Amazon product on a Facebook ad that you just had in your cart, but deleted.
This section allows you to turn off some key demographic data such as your relationship status, employer, job title and education. Some information you can’t turn off is your zip code or age.
The second tab of this section has a list of categories that Facebook has put you in. This is, according to Facebook, based on information you provided to the social network or “other activity.”
The above screenshot shows my categories. Some of it is right (like my birthday is in April) and I am away from my hometown. Others like “Healthcare and Medical Services” is wrong. If I hover over that it says that I work in that industry.
Ad settings and hide ad topics
The ad settings section gives you more control over some of the data Facebook uses to serve you ads and hide ad topics allows you to remove ads related to alcohol, parenting or pets.