How Facebook Collects Data About You to Target Ads (And How You Can Change That)

iStock
iStock

Facebook knows a lot about you, like where you work, where you live, and your relationship status. But that only covers the personal details you elect to make public online—there’s a whole list of undisclosed information Facebook compiles on each of its users for advertising purposes. If you’re not ready to delete your account for the sake of privacy, you can review and edit your own list of categories for targeted ads in a few quick steps.

A recent episode of the podcast Reply All delved into how Facebook chooses ads based on the preferences and lifestyles of its users. Cat lovers may see ads for cat food pop up beside their news feed, for instance, or someone planning a vacation may be shown ads for hotels. Sometimes, the specificity of these advertisements can feel very creepy. The hyper-targeting has even convinced some users that Facebook is eavesdropping on their private conversations through their devices (which Facebook denies), but the truth is that Facebook has learned enough about the kind of person you are to make really accurate educated guesses about what you want to buy.

So what exactly are the details Facebook looks at when targeting ads? You can find them by going to your “ad preferences” page, clicking on “your information,” and then going to “your categories.” There you’ll find everything from your political leanings and the industry you work in to the devices you own. Facebook doesn't always get these things right, but you may be surprised to learn how much the site knows regarding areas of your life you’ve never posted about in the past. I hardly ever update my profile, but according to my categories page Facebook somehow knows that I live with roommates and that I like to travel. That's because some of this information isn't based on my Facebook activity, but on information Facebook gets from my behavior on other sites.

You can get Facebook to stop using these categories to target ads by clicking the “X” beside the entry. But don’t expect the targeted ads to disappear after purging the page—according to ProPublica, the “your categories” section doesn’t paint a full picture of what Facebook thinks you like (for a more complete version of that list, you can download ProPublica’s Chrome extension).

Want a better way to get rid of targeted ads? Go back to the “your ad preferences page” and click on “ad settings.” From there, you can disable the “ads based on your use of website and apps option.” That way you can online shop without ads for the item you just bought following you back to social media.

[h/t Reply All]

Celebrate the Holidays With the 2020 Harry Potter Funko Pop Advent Calendar

Funko
Funko

Though the main book series and movie franchise are long over, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter remains in the spotlight as one of the most popular properties in pop-culture. The folks at Funko definitely know this, and every year the company releases a new Advent calendar based on the popular series so fans can count down to the holidays with their favorite characters.

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Right now, you can pre-order the 2020 edition of Funko's popular Harry Potter Advent calendar, and if you do it through Amazon, you'll even get it on sale for 33 percent off, bringing the price down from $60 to just $40.

Funko Pop!/Amazon

Over the course of the holiday season, the Advent calendar allows you to count down the days until Christmas, starting on December 1, by opening one of the tiny, numbered doors on the appropriate day. Each door is filled with a surprise Pocket Pop! figurine—but outside of the trio of Harry, Hermione, and Ron, the company isn't revealing who you'll be getting just yet.

Calendars will start shipping on October 15, but if you want a head start, go to Amazon to pre-order yours at a discount.

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Turn Your Couch or Bed Into an Office With This Comfortable Lap Desk

LapGear
LapGear

If you're not working in an office right now, you'll understand the freedom of taking a Zoom meeting from your back porch, jotting down notes from your bed, and filling out spreadsheets from your sofa. But working from home isn't always as comfortable as everyone thinks it is, especially if you're trying to get through the day while balancing a notebook, computer, and stationery on your lap. To give you the space you need while maintaining your well-earned place on the couch, LapGear has the perfect solution to your problems with their lap desk, which you can find on Amazon for $35.

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With more than 6000 reviews and a 4.8-star rating on Amazon, the lap desk can fit laptops and tablets up to 15.6 inches across and includes an integrated 5-inch-by-9-inch mouse pad and cell phone slot for better organization. There's even a ledge built into the desk to help keep your device from sliding when you're at an angle.

For some added comfort, the bottom of the desk is designed with dual-bolster cushions, so you'll never have to feel a hot laptop on your thighs again. The top surface is available in various colors like white marble ($30), silver carbon ($35), and oak woodgrain ($35) to work with your design aesthetic.

Find out more about LapGear’s lap desk here on Amazon.

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