A story today by Darren Davidson in The Australian newspaper has highlighted an alarming possibility coming out of Facebook – targeting advertising to young people based on their mood.  As shocking as this is, it will come as no surprise to those who closely understand how Facebook works, but will worry many.

The fact is, Facebook builds its entire business model on knowing as much about you as possible.  So does Google.  The more they know, the more accurate they can be – the more money an advertiser might be likely to pay to target you with their advertising.

In 2017, instead of spending $1000 running an advertisement that 400 people will see, a company can spend $400 running 30 ads that 400 people will see.  The cost is less, and the ads the end user sees are more likely to resonate with them because of the advertiser profiling that goes on.

Today’s report though centres on the use of “sentiment”, the idea that by analysing your language (the words you post on facebook) and the pages you visit, Facebook can know if you’re in a good mood, or a bad mood.  And with kids as young as 13 on Facebook it’s a worry to think what they might be targeted with.

Importantly, despite the report today in The Australian, Facebook have been at pains today to point out there is no truth to the report, issuing this statement:

“On May 1, 2017, The Australian posted a story regarding research done by Facebook and subsequently shared with an advertiser. The premise of the article is misleading. Facebook does not offer tools to target people based on their emotional state

The analysis done by an Australian researcher was intended to help marketers understand how people express themselves on Facebook. It was never used to target ads and was based on data that was anonymous and aggregated.

Facebook has an established process to review the research we perform. This research did not follow that process, and we are reviewing the details to correct the oversight.”

So, if you’re now more aware of how Facebook advertising works – and are keen to take back some control.  Check your kids phones, and your own.

On the website, or in the App – click those three little lines on the side of the menu bar, and scroll all the way down the bottom to where you see Privacy Shortcuts – and click there.

Next, press More Settings.

Now scroll all the way down and press Adverts.

Here is Facebook’s little profile of you.  The information about you that Advertisers might not be able to directly see, but can use to target ads to you.  Facebook has built up a profile of your interests, and compiled it all into their database.

Have a look in “Your Information” and you can see a top line view of your profile.

You can also take back some control here by opting out of being targeted based on this profile data.

Finally, Categories.  Facebook puts you into categories – based on the things you say, post, and the posts you comment on or like.  Take a look – mind blowing stuff.

This thing knows full well I’m a frequent traveller, that I have young kids, am into computers – all the obvious stuff, and more – you can click on the three dots next to each one and remove yourself from that category.

If all this is freaking you out, then, get off Facebook, but if you just want to take control back, you’ll need to visit these settings regularly to ensure those categories are removed or kept up to date.