Even if you don’t care about being chased by the latest sneaker or flight destination that you’ve recently searched for, the ongoing Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal has shed light on a common and disturbing practice undertaken by the world’s largest social network: the vast amount of personal data gathered about us is progressively used to shape our behavior, wishes and needs.
For many — especially women and non-binary people — this approach can be even more aggressive, reinforcing gender roles, heteronormativity and, therefore, discrimination against diversity.
Facebook uses our browsing data to infer our class, gender identity, sexuality and many other aspects of our lives. It infers whether we are up for a date or about to get pregnant (and can probably even guess with whom), if we are sad or in the mood for a party (or both). Furthermore, the increasing variety of apps that track our bodies and sexual habits - such as dating apps and period trackers — not only profit from our most intimate information, but also, very likely, even if they are not developed by Facebook, their services and databases are at least connected to Facebook through partnerships for “easy” login.
These are all valuable information to advertisers. As we have shown in our investigation about Gendered Targeted Ads it enables them to show you ads for cribs, baby monitors, weight loss programs. Or, if you are of a certain age, it lets them invade your timelines with fertility program ads or suggestions to freeze your eggs. Some find it quite annoying to see that Facebook is allowing advertisers to have sensitive data about you to suggest how you should be or what you should care about.
Facebook says that people can control how advertisers target them by using Facebook’s Ad Preferences page — but how effective is that? We’re uncertain whether the new ads transparency plans and privacy controls that Facebook has introduced will actually better protect our information.
That’s why we built fuzzify.me — a browser extension for Firefox and Chrome that helps people to thwart future targeted ads and gain transparency into Facebook’s ad platform.
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