As soon as you sign in to Facebook, you’ve accepted the new terms, which means Facebook will scan how you surf the internet (outside Facebook) and which mobile apps you use, in order to ‘target’ advertising in your feed.
Scarier still, if you tell Facebook where you are (by using the Nearby Friends feature in the app, for instance), the site will target recommendations of local bars and restaurants to you.
Facebook announced the measures months ago, but they have only come into force in Europe today. If you are logged in to Facebook on your phone, or in your internet browser, the network will automatically track sites you visit, what you do there, and what you do within apps on your phone.
Facebook offers a link to opt out of all targeted ad-tracking schemes, via an official site – but this relies on individual sites honouring the agreement not to track you and thus isn’t bulletproof.
Facebook now also offers a ‘Privacy Basics‘ page to help you keep track of the site’s privacy policies, and what adverts you see.
You can block some of this tracking using add-ons such as Adblock Plus – but the safest thing is to stay logged out of Facebook if you want to avoid being tracked. If you don’t, you will see adverts based on what you have done – which could cause embarassment later if you’re logged in and people happen to see a jarring advert.
Facebook does offer an Ad Preferences tool, which users can use to complain about targeted adverts – but only after they’ve seen them.
You can limit this sort of ad-tracking by cleaning out your browser’s cookies regularly, and by ensuring your privacy settings on Facebook are set to maximum, but if you’re worried, the safest thing is to not use Facebook. Measures such as using a browser’s ‘Do Not Track’ button have no effect – Facebook ignores this.
The new terms were supposed to launch on January 1, but were delayed after user complaints, according to a report from Adblock Plus. The new terms have been highly controversial in Germany – so the social network has included some exemptions for German users.
Sadly Ghanaian facebookers, these only apply in Germany.