Most users are unaware Facebook compiles lists of their interests for advertisers: poll

Most users are unaware Facebook compiles lists of their interests for advertisers: poll

Most Facebook users are unaware that the social media giant compiles lists of their interests to help advertisers target them more efficiently, according to a new Pew Research Center survey

Seventy-four percent of users said they were unaware that Facebook was keeping a list of their interests until Pew directed them toward the page. 


Facebook users can find the list of their interests on the platform's "ad preferences" page, which uses individuals' activities on the platform to compile a list of categories meant to represent what they care about. 

A majority of users said their Facebook-proscribed "interests" accurately reflect their real-life interests, while 27 percent said the list is not representative of what matters to them.

"Interest" categories are broken down into groups including "news and entertainment," "business and industry," "travel," "people," and "hobbies."

Examples of "interests" Facebook could identify include "video games," "banking," and "the federal government of the United States," as well as broader interests such as "adolescence." 

Eighty-eight percent of Facebook users, when directed by Pew to the "ad preferences" page, found that the platform had generated categories for them. Nearly 60 percent said those categories were representative. 

A little over 50 percent of users said they are uncomfortable that Facebook is compiling a list of their interests that will help advertisers more effectively target them.

The "ad preferences" page sometimes assigns political affinities and "multicultural affinities" for users, meaning an assessment of the political or cultural groups that Facebook believes they engage with most frequently. Of those who were assigned a political affinity, 73 percent said it was accurate.

Twenty-one percent of those surveyed by Pew said Facebook listed their "multicultural affinity," and 60 percent of those users said they do have an affinity for the group listed. 

Forty-three percent of those with a "multicultural" affinity designation were said to have an interest in African-American culture, while 43 percent were said to have a particular interest in Hispanic culture. According to Facebook's assessment, 10 percent were said to have an affinity with Asian-American culture. 

Facebook does not have a "White" or "Caucasian" culture affinity designation, according to Pew.

Other social media platforms also compile lists of interests, including Twitter. 

"We want people to understand how our ad settings and controls work," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill.

"That means better ads for people," the spokesperson added. "While we and the rest of the online ad industry need to do more to educate people on how interest-based advertising works and how we protect people’s information, we welcome conversations about transparency and control."

--This report was updated at 12:05 p.m.