Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you’re probably well aware of the various privacy implications big tech companies such as Google and Meta often get called out for. A large piece of the business model of such corporations relies on their ability to gather data on, and subsequently serve adverts to, their users. If you’re struggling with ad preference settings, read on!
The prevailing narrative seems to be that you have little to no control over how this data is used and managed. This is not entirely true. While running adverts are the backbone of business models within the big tech world, corporations like Google and Meta do offer their users the ability to control certain aspects of ad preferences and targeting criteria. These settings can be quite tricky to find if you don’t know where to look, though.
Facebook seems to be at the core of most public dialogue around online privacy. However, Facebook does offer more extensive ad control settings than Google. These settings are split into several categories, including advertisers, ad topics, and ad settings.
In order to get to the ad preferences page, follow the instructions below:
- Click on Account (down-point arrow on the top right of Facebook)
- Select Settings & Privacy, then choose Settings.
- Click Ads in the menu on the left.
The first thing you’ll see here is the Advertisers page with a list of the advertisers you’ve seen most recently, along with the option to hide ads from any advertisers on this list. There are also two other subcategories here: advertisers whose ads you’ve clicked on, and advertisers that you’ve hidden. It can be helpful to check up on the first option from time to time to assess what sorts of advertisers are grabbing your attention enough to get a click out of you.
Once you’ve spent some time periodically checking this page, you’ll start to build up a list of advertisers that you’ve hidden. These can be reviewed every once in a while in case you accidentally hid ads from a company or if you’re newly in the market for something that one of the advertisers is offering.
The Ad Topics section is quite limited, but is nevertheless useful if you’d like to limit adverts pertaining to any of these four designated topics:
– Elections & politics
The most in depth ad options on Facebook, however, are to be found on the Ad Settings page. Here you’ll find several sub menus allowing you to control various things which we’ve detailed below.
Data about your activity from partners – You’re able to turn the ability for advertisers to target you on or off based on external actions you’ve made on websites and apps. Turning this setting off will limit the amount of data available to advertisers. BUT if you turn this off, it does not limit the number of ads you see, only the availability of your data. Therefore, you might start seeing ads completely unrelated to you and your interests.
Categories used to reach you – Here, you’re able to choose which parts of your profile can be included in audience targeting parameters, as well as review all of the interest categories your profile has. You may find that there are hundreds and hundreds of interest categories assigned to you, from things as broad as “online shopping”, to as niche as the name of a band you enjoy. Going down this list, you may remove as many ad categories that are irrelevant to you as you like. Facebook also gives you the option to review categories you’ve previously removed in case you’d like to add them again.
Audience-based advertising – In this section, you can see how you were reached by advertisers. For example, they may have uploaded an email list your details were on, or your profile was part of an interest-targeting category, as examples.
Ads shown off of Facebook – Facebook gives advertisers the option to serve ads on partner websites and apps off of Facebook’s platform. This section gives you the option to turn the ability for advertisers to do this on or off. Similarly to the above, this will not limit the amount of ads you see, but only their relevance based on your interest categories and activity on Facebook.
Social interactions – Sometimes Facebook may encourage users to click on an advert by showing that friends of theirs have liked the page, engaged with their content or used their app. This appears as something like: “John Doe and 10 of your other friends like Insert Brand Name Here, next to an advertisement. In this section of the ad preferences space, you’re able to limit your social interactions to just yourself. This means that none of your friends will see your name pop up alongside ads that they see.
When Facebook purchased Instagram in 2012, they began the process of merging the features of the two platforms. This allows advertisers to serve their ads across both platforms using the same ad management software. While the ad preference settings on Instagram are far more limited than those of Facebook, the presentation and control of these settings are quite similar because the two platforms are housed within the same system.
To find the Ad Preferences page, follow the instructions below:
- Tap your profile picture in the bottom right to go to your profile.
- Tap the Menu in the top right, and choose Settings.
- Tap Ads.
From here you’ll see several sub menus, similar to those in the Facebook ad preferences settings. Ad Topics is identical to Facebook here, with four designated topics:
– Elections & politics
You can use this page to see fewer ads pertaining to any of the above topics.
Data from partners – Just like Facebook, you’re able to turn the ability for advertisers to target you on or off based on external actions you’ve made on websites and apps that may have a Facebook pixel installed on it.
Ad interests – This section is basically the Instagram equivalent of Facebook’s interest categories, showcasing all of the interests linked to your account that advertisers can use as targeting parameters to reach you. Unfortunately, here, you’re only able to review the various categories, and not remove anything as you can on Facebook.
Ad activity – On this page, you can review ads you’ve recently clicked on, as well as ads which have been served to you. This can be helpful to assess what types of advertisers or creative assets are catching your attention enough to acquire a click from you.
Google’s ad preference settings aren’t quite as extensive as those offered by Facebook, but there are a couple things you can do to control how your data is being used by advertisers. It’s important to keep in mind that Google owns YouTube, so these settings affect your experiences with regards to ads on both Google and YouTube.
To find the ad settings page on Google, follow the instructions below:
- Go to https://myaccount.google.com/
- In the navigation panel, select Data & privacy.
- Scroll to “Things You’ve Done And Places You’ve Been.
- Click on Ad Personalization.
On the ad settings page, the first thing you’ll likely see is the ad personalization setting, which can be turned on or off. However, just like with Facebook and Instagram, turning this off won’t limit the volume of ads that you see, only the relevancy of the ads to you as a potential customer.
Below this is an Advanced setting where you’re able to turn off the ability for advertisers to target you on websites and apps that are partnered with Google based off of your activities on Google’s products.
Then, you’ll see a whole bunch of demographic and interest categories that Google has assigned to you based on various things such as your age, location, browsing habits, and more. All of these can be turned off if they don’t pertain to you or your interests. The categories such as age, language and gender can be updated if they are incorrect.
To conclude, there are several ways for you to control the types of adverts you see on the internet. However, advertising is the backbone of business models across the net, and so, despite the control you’re afforded on various platforms, you’re unable to mitigate the volume of ads you see (with the exception of platforms such as YouTube, which give you the option to purchase advert-free premium subscriptions). In today’s age it’s important to stay up to date with the ever-changing landscape of online privacy, so that you’re aware of how your data is being used and how to improve your experience online.
Pulling Power Media is passionate about your ads going to the right audience members, and not being hailed as nothing but irrelevant spam. Contact us to find out more about our paid media services.