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.
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.