Commentary

Retargeting Tango: How I Could Make That Blue Couch Vanish From My Newsfeed

As I write this, a blue couch is stalking me. It’s a contemporary sectional that would be a worthy replacement for the aging grey sofa bed in our living room -- if it were red. But it doesn’t come in red, so as far as I’m concerned, our relationship is over.

It’s not giving up so easily, though. It haunts my newsfeed, and Facebook’s right rail. And, just as I’ve said about other material goods that have followed me online long after my fascination with them has waned, I wish it would go away.

But here’s the weird thing. There’s really no reason to complain about it, because I just discovered it can go away. However, there’s a caveat -- to figure out how, I had to do some intensive data drilling that finally (and only after going out to Google and searching for “Facebook Ad Preferences”) revealed itself, back within the Facebook Help Center. It’s Facebook’s Ad Preferences tool, which you can employ simply by clicking on the “x” that appears if you mouse over an ad. It lets you make the decision to no longer see it.

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Poof! Blue couch begone!

Maybe you knew about this preferences tool already, but based on conversations I’ve had recently with people in the industry, I bet fewer people--  even among the digerati -- know about this than one would think. Everyone complains about being stalked by advertisers. And, as I alluded to earlier, Facebook (and other platforms) doesn’t make this easy to find. I bet most of us, blinded by a fog of content, never bother to wonder what goes on if you click that little “x.”

And therein lies the greater conundrum about the push-and-pull of our online lives. According to a study released just this week by the Pew Internet Project – a study that was explicitly conducted to gauge Americans’ attitudes about privacy in the post-Snowden era – there’s plenty of concern about online privacy. There just doesn’t seem to be a ton of will to do anything about it.

Eighty-one percent of those surveyed said they felt “not very secure” or “not at all secure” about social media for them to “share private information.” Only 37% said they felt they were doing enough to protect their information online; while 64% felt the government should take a larger role in regulating advertisers.

And then there’s my favorite stat of all: 55% “agree” or “strongly agree” with this sentence: “I am willing to share some information about myself with companies in order to use online services for free.” Which means that potentially 45% of people would consider paying some money to avoid having their information used to target them. Let’s all join Ello!

So people are concerned about their privacy, and yet, they seem to suffer from inertia. Which brings me back to that blue couch. What if I make ads for it go away just as they decide to introduce it in red? What if I miss the news?

Maybe I won’t click on that “x” after all. Sigh.

3 comments about "Retargeting Tango: How I Could Make That Blue Couch Vanish From My Newsfeed".
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  1. David Cearley from self employed, November 14, 2014 at 3:10 p.m.

    Yahoo has been irritating me and scamming advertisers. They reduced the width of the scroll bar in mail and now I accidentally click through to ads almost every day simply by trying to pull up the scroll. Next, they drop an ad at the top of the message list, but only about half the time. As I click to through messages destined for the trash, instead of clicking on the next message it's very easy to click
    on the sudden appearance of an inline ad. It appears the page is designed to capture as many accidential clicks as possible. I feel sorry for the plc advertisers being fleeced this way..

  2. Robert Martin from Add any news topic, November 15, 2014 at 9:34 p.m.

    If one discusses politics even sparingly on Facebook, one would have been inundated with hateful tea party ads regarding our POTUSA at some point during the last several years. Without the means to control ad preferences, I'd have gone bonkers...and I don't recall ever being stumped in locating this option.

  3. Martin Focazio from EPAM Systems, November 17, 2014 at 1:49 p.m.

    I had a similar problem, but "this one weird trick" worked for me:
    https://adblockplus.org/

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