Facebook, like Google, is a website with many interesting and relevant features that a large portion of the world’s population find useful. This is evidenced by Facebook.com being the third-most visited website on the Internet according to Alexa (behind Google.com and YouTube.com). This level of usage puts Facebook in a similar position as Google for collecting and analyzing data about its users.
For many years now, the content which Facebook shows to you on your timeline is determined not by the recency of posts but by their algorithm (a fancy word for a process to take in information and take actions based on it to come up with a solution — in this case, what to display on your timeline). So what data does Facebook have access to which would be beneficial for them to understand about you and use in their algorithm?
The Content of Liked Posts
Any post that any account Likes on Facebook is associated with that account. This is how the application knows to show you that you’ve previously Liked a post. Facebook also indexes post content for ease of searching and for recommendations of connections and recommendations of advertising. Over time, a profile can be built about what sorts of information you respond to best.
Now with multiple types of reactions, Facebook has another dimension to gauge your interest (or disinterest) with particular topics. This information can be used in their algorithm to guide behavior by taking the result desired and calculating backwards (based on their analysis of the types of reactions to different stimuli) to determine which type of information to display in your timeline.
The Content of Liked Pages
In a very similar manner, the content posted by Pages that you Like can be mixed in to inform Facebook’s algorithm about what your interests are – maybe economics, politics, and camping or perhaps video games, programming, and obscure literature. This informs the algorithm what sort of advertising is likely to be successful if placed in or near your timeline. It also adds to your overall profile of things like temperament and suggestibility.
Commonly Like Pages Among “Closest Friends”
Chances are that there are some friends on Facebook that you interact with more than others. Your interactions with those people are potentially more informative about who you are and how you think than the chance one-off interaction you have with someone you went to high school with. Thus they become part of your closest friends. Having this closer connection to other accounts allows Facebook to have a higher confidence that you positively interact with advertising and other engagements which were successful with those friends. This takes advantage of the network effect where the benefit is reaped by Facebook’s use of the network.
Signing Up or Signing In with Facebook
Many websites these days require an account, and often, they allow you to either sign up with your Facebook account or simply tie your account in their system to your Facebook account so that you can log in with one click. This seems very convenient, but depending upon the access that is shared, Facebook can know more about your information and potentially your activity on those sites. At a minimum, Facebook is aware of what other sites you’re using your Facebook account to log into and can correlate your account with the type of content provided by the external site.
Restricting What Facebook Knows
The most straight-forward way to mitigate the information Facebook knows about you is to simply not use Facebook at all. This is a reasonable approach, but it is sometimes not practical. Similar to our recommendation for restricting what Google knows about you, using browser extensions to block tracker scripts will help to some degree, but most of Facebook’s information comes from how you use their site.
It is important to be conscious of advertising put before you online, maybe even especially online, as it is laser-focused to you based on your activity. With Facebook, there is another degree of impact in that their algorithm chooses what you see and what you do not see on their website. This is a power to be well aware of when using Facebook.
If you have any questions about protecting your information or online activities, feel free to give us a call at (901) 475-0275. We’ll be glad to offer our advice and assistance!