It’s safe to say Facebook is having a crappy 2018.
Endless scandals. Bountiful lawsuits. Congressional testimony. It’s hard to know if Facebook has hit bottom, and if they have, how they intend to claw out.
This is where Facebook’s “Hard Questions” feature shines. Some top-level exec will provide answers to big issues facing the company and their billions of users.
On Monday, it was Rob Goldman’s turn. He’s Face-book’s VP for Ads, and his question was a doozy:
“What do Facebook advertisers know about me?”
“To build a product that connects people across continents and cultures, we need to make sure everyone can afford it,” Goldman stated. “Advertising lets us keep Facebook free. But we aren’t blind to the challenges this model poses. It requires a steadfast commitment to privacy.”
I have to admit a little skepticism. This is the same company that earlier this month sent millions of us a message saying that our information had been sucked up into the Cambridge Analytica vortex.
Oh, and it happened two years ago.
I’m a forgiving soul, so I slogged through his answers, looking for loopholes, hoping to learn something new about how advertisers are trying to connect with me.
What I found actually opened me to the idea of maybe trusting Facebook again. Well not today, but some day.
According to Goldman, there are a few ways advertisers can reach us.
They take information from our use of Facebook (including age, gender, hometown, friends), and when we like posts or articles, they use that information to understand what might interest us in terms of products and services.
Next, advertisers will share information with Facebook about us (i.e., customer information) so that they can reach us. Advertisers might know our email addresses from a purchase or from some other non-Facebook data source.
Lastly, there’s a ton of information that websites and apps send to Facebook about our use of their services. Some apps we use, for example, may utilize Facebook tools (e.g., such as using Facebook to login to the app) to make their ads more relevant to us and to evaluate the success of their ad campaigns.
“For example, if an online retailer is using Facebook Pixel, they can ask Facebook to show ads to people who looked at a certain style of shoe or put a pair of shoes into their shopping cart,” Goldman said.
“We do not tell advertisers who you are or sell your information to anyone. That has always been true. We think relevant advertising and privacy aren’t in conflict, and we’re committed to doing both well.”
Only time will tell if we can hold Facebook to this promise and trust them again.
If you want to manage what information advertisers know about you, go to “ad preferences” and edit what you’re willing to share.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about communication and relationships, parenting and sports. He writes a weekly column for The Vindicator newspaper on social media and society.