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Most Facebook users don’t know that it records a list of their interests, new study finds

Most Facebook users don’t know that it records a list of their interests, new study finds


74 percent of people weren’t aware of Facebook’s methods

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Seventy-four percent of Facebook users are unaware that Facebook records a list of their interests for ad-targeting purposes, according to a new study from the Pew Institute.

Participants in the study were first pointed to Facebook’s ad preferences page, which lists out a person’s interests. Nearly 60 percent of participants admitted that Facebook’s lists of interests were very or somewhat accurate to their actual interests, and 51 percent said they were uncomfortable with Facebook creating the list.

Facebook has weathered serious questions about its collection of personal information in recent years. CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress last year acknowledging privacy concerns and touching upon the company’s collection of personal information. While Zuckerberg said Facebook users have complete control over the information they upload and the information Facebook uses to actively target ads at its users, it’s clear from the Pew study that most people are not aware of Facebook’s collection tactics.

The Pew study also demonstrates that, while Facebook offers a number of transparency and data control tools, most users are not aware of where they should be looking. Even when the relevant information is located, there are often multiple steps to go through to delete assigned interests.

Facebook issued the following statement to The Verge, following the paper’s publishing.

We want people to understand how our ad settings and controls work. That means better ads for people. While we and the rest of the online ad industry need to do more to educate people on how interest-based advertising works and how we protect people’s information, we welcome conversations about transparency and control.

Zuckerberg announced a tool for Facebook users last May that would help them clear their history and give them more control over their privacy, but he admitted that Facebook needed to do a better job of handling data and giving people control.

“One thing I learned from my experience testifying in Congress is that I didn’t have clear enough answers to some of the questions about data,” Zuckerberg wrote. “We’re working to make sure these controls are clear, and we will have more to come soon.”

Update (January 16, 2:45 PM): The story was updated to include Facebook’s statement.