Getty Images / Oli Scarff / Staff
Social networks and internet firms amass huge amounts of data about their users. Based on each of your clicks (and taps) the services can build up a profile of what you’re likely to be interested in.
This data can then used to sell to advertisers, who can buy adverts targeted to an individual’s interests. As such, it’s no surprise that when you’re browsing for a new sofa online, the adverts across the websites you visit become about the comfiest chairs to sit in.
As well as this Twitter has included a page that shows users what it believes you are interested in, based on the data it has already collected. These include broad topics such as ‘physics’ but also interests from Twitter’s partners. However, Twitter isn’t the only company to do this.
Last year, in a similar bid to be transparent, Facebook introduced its own advertising page. Its version of the ‘advert preferences’ shows interests, advertisers that have been interacted with and the topics it thinks you’re interested in.
Here’s how to see what Twitter and Facebook think you’re interested in:
Twitter Privacy Settings
Twitter’s highly specific ‘Interests from partners’
Twitter has separate pages where it shows information about your interests: these are split into ‘Interests from Twitter’ and ‘Interests from partners’.
The company says the former of these includes interests that have been matched “based on your profile and activity”. Those interests shown for me include around 60 different topics. These range from the sensible (technology, tech tradeshows, museums) to the more bizarre (HaHa and cute). Each of these can be ticked or unticked manually, depending on if you agree with them or want Twitter to classify your tweets. See your Twitter interests here.
The other section – ‘Interests from partners’ – provides a far greater insight into the data that Twitter collects and provides to others. “Twitter’s partners build audiences around shopping decisions, lifestyle, and other online and offline behaviors,” the page says. The interests are far more detailed than those just collected by Twitter. Mine include more than 100 and are incredibly specific. These include: Valentine’s Day shoppers, specific retailers I may have interacted with, and detailed topics. ‘Likely to have a combined home and auto insurance policy,’ Trash bags,’ and ‘Cat food & treats’.
Facebook Privacy Settings
The Facebook advertising categories identified by the social network based on user information
As well as Twitter, Facebook also lets users see the information about them. Its page for advert preferences shows interests based on pages that have been linked, advertisers you’ve interacted with and information broken down into categories.
These categories can, as with Twitter, appear to be off the mark with what you think is real but are based on information you’ve provided to Facebook. For instance, my page shows that I have an interest in ‘Close friends of ex-pats’ and ‘Close friends of women with a birthday in 7-30 days’.
However, there’s also categories included based on your personal information – it knows an iPhone 6S is used to access Facebook, as well travel data used to know classify a ‘frequent traveller’. You can see your Facebook advertising data here.
Facebook also has a test to hide advertising topics. The example given includes hiding adverts about alcohol, this can be turned on for six months, a year, or permanently.
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