Part of what makes companies like Facebook and Google so valuable, is that they oversee vast treasure troves of user data which can be of huge benefit to brands.
For advertisers, it means they’re more likely to get a higher click-through rate on their advertisements, boosting the effectiveness of their campaigns.
For users, it means forfeiting personal information to a variety of unknown sources.
Thankfully, there are a number of steps that can be taken to prevent Facebook’s ad partners from following you as you browse the internet on your phone or desktop computer.
Changing your settings on your smartphone or tablet
If you own an iPhone or iPad, the steps to block targeted adverts are relatively simple.
Go to Settings, tap Privacy and then scroll down to click on Advertising.
From there, swipe the ‘Limit Ad Tracking’ button.
If you choose to leave the ‘Limit Ad Tracking’ feature off, that means that advertisers can track your browsing behaviour by assigning your device a unique ID number, or a Identifier For Advertising.
When you the option on, your device will be represented as ‘00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000.’
In turn, it will be harder for ad technology companies to track your browsing behaviour.
If you own an Android phone or tablet, the process is very similar.
Open up Settings, navigate to Accounts and Sync, select Google, then Ads and finally, select ‘Opt Out of Interest Based Ads.’
Changing your browser settings
If you’re browsing the internet on Google Chrome, go to ‘Settings’ in the right-hand dropdown menu.
From there, click on ‘Show advanced settings,’ then select Privacy.
Finally, click on ‘Send a do not track request with your browsing traffic.’
A popup on Chrome further explains what this means: ‘Enabling Do Not Track means that a request will be included with your browsing traffic.
‘Any effect depends on whether a website responds to the request, and how the request is interpreted.’
‘For example, some websites may respond to this request by showing you ads that aren’t based on other websites you’ve visited.’
‘Many websites will still collect and use your browsing data– for example, to improve security, to provide content, services, ads, and recommendations on their websites, and to generate reporting statistics.’
What this means is that not all websites necessarily have to honour ‘Do Not Track’ requests.
Contacting your local data privacy alliance
Google, Facebook and Twitter are just a few of the major corporations that are part of a number of privacy alliances that have agreed to honour requests to stop tracking.
These are the Digital Advertising Alliance in the US, the Digital Advertising Alliance of Canada and the European Interactive Digital Advertising Alliance.
The websites of each of these organisations contain instructions on how to add your details to their ‘do not track’ schemes.
Change your tacking settings in Facebook
Facebook has given users of its social network the option to opt out of ad tracking via the site.
First, log in to Facebook, go to Settings, then click on ‘Ads’ in the menu on the left-hand side of the screen.
Under Ad Settings, click on the button that says ‘Ads on apps and websites off of the Facebook Companies.’
Then scroll down to the bottom and select ‘No.’
Facebook says that if you select that option, it means that you’ll still see ads, but ‘they won’t be as relevant to you.’
Additionally, you may still see ads related to your age, gender or location.