Opting Out of Facebook's Creepy Social Ads Campaign

They say it's an effort to "make advertisements more interesting and more tailored" to you and other users, but Facebook's new Social Ads campaign is really an attempt to use your name and face to move products and sell advertising space. With the controversial new campaign, which started rolling out last Friday, all individuals who are on the social network can be made into an unofficial -- and uncompensated -- spokesman of sorts.

The idea is simple: If you 'Like' a product, follow a fan page or are attending an event, Facebook can use your default profile picture and name in targeted advertisements that are displayed on your friends' pages. If I see that my friends 'Like' a certain music album, for example, Facebook thinks that I am more likely to click through and, hopefully, buy. Must keep up with the Joneses. Increasing user engagement with advertising makes it far more valuable to the social network.

"We only share the personally identifiable information visible in the social ad with the friend who can see the ad," Facebook's privacy policy states. Meaning, if your privacy settings are such that certain individuals are unable to see your status updates and Wall posts, Facebook will block social ads from appearing on those pages.

Users seem most troubled with the social network's plans for expanding the service should it prove successful. "It's going to get worse," PCWorld's Dan Tynan warns. "It looks very likely Facebook will soon allow third party advertisers to use your name and face inside Facebook apps. How do I know this? Because they've already set up a way for you to opt out of it." Facebook's standing policy forbids third-party advertisers from accessing this identifiable information, but, if this is something that concerns you, take two minutes to modify your settings now so that, should the policy change in the near future, you'll be protected.

To opt out of social ads, login to your Facebook profile and click on the 'Account' tab in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage. From the drop-down menu, select 'Account Settings' and tab over to 'Facebook Ads.' If this is your first time visiting this page, a window explaining the Social Ads campaign will pop-up, explaining that "[y]our privacy settings always apply to your Facebook content, including any content about you in a social ads." Which is exactly why we're going to change those right now. Close the pop-up window and, using the drop-down menu under 'Ads shown by third party applications,' select 'No one.' Save the changes to ensure that you'll never appear in a third-party social advertisement. Then, if you want to block social ads completely, scroll down and change the second drop-down menu to 'No one' as well.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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