What Your Facebook Ads Tell You About What They Actually Know About You

What Your Facebook Ads Tell You About What They Actually Know About You

Have you ever wondered why Facebook ads seem to always know what you've been doing?

The fact that Facebook always seems to know what ads to show me has creeped me out for a little while now. Today, my interest was peaked further when a classmate told me that Facebook can listen to you. I've decided that I need to find some answers for myself and you all about what Facebook is actually using to help advertisers learn about (stalk) us.

The first thing I discovered, which I suppose should have been obvious, is that Facebook isn't just Facebook. Facebook also owns Instagram and WhatsApp. According to their website, they use your interests indicated on these sites to tailor ads to you. This wasn't so creepy. I assumed that what I put on my profile or liked on Facebook would be used for this purpose.

Things start getting a little more interesting when looking into what is called a Facebook pixel. Essentially, advertisers can add pixels to their web pages' codes that help track consumer behavior and engagement online. It then matches interests with ads to show on Facebook. If you've downloaded an app, made a purchase, or even just viewed the webpage, they know. Facebook allows the advertiser to tailor who gets more attention for some products based on things like age and location (yeah, they track you through your GPS or IP address).

What sort of things does Facebook take from your clicks and uploads to build a profile of you for advertisers? I'll use my own Facebook as an example. Facebook indicates that it uses my relationship status, knows what kind of phone and computer I use (and their operating systems), keeps track of what apps I install on my phone, and found out I live in a "housemate-based household." If you click on an ad or page that has a similar audience to another company's, you may start seeing more ads from that second similar company as well.

As for the rumors about Facebook listening to us, it does seem to be false. Facebook released a statement on their blog stating that the app can access the microphone, but it does not listen to your conversations to target advertising. Instead, the microphone aspect is necessary for certain features like audio in Messenger.

To be fair, Facebook is transparent about these issues on the site. If you go to your settings, you can find all sorts of information about what Facebook is taking from your internet usage. You can also adjust various ad settings. For example, you can hide ads on a particular topic, such as alcohol. You may remove certain companies that Facebook has determined interest you. Even for fun, you should go on to see what it "thinks" of you. I enjoyed learning that 60 percent of my hobbies section included puppies (French bulldog specifically) and kittens. They are nothing if not thorough, because it also knows I have car insurance with State Farm, eat my heart out at Chipotle, and engage in a little retail therapy at Nordstrom.

Cover Image Credit: Larissa Hamblin

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A Letter To My Best Friend On Graduation Day

What are you suppose to say to your best friend on graduation day?

Have you ever heard of a fairy tale? Where two people meet and then everything else seems to fall into place. Well here’s how this one started: two little girls in preschool, sitting in a little room, with other little people. The teacher comes over and starts to hand out frosted cookies and bunny coloring pages for us all. Somehow, somewhere in here, the two little girls became best friends.

Now, I don’t want to tell you some fairy tale story, because fairy tales aren’t really true, right? So here’s what I really want to tell you.

What do you say? I mean really, what are you supposed to say to someone whom you’ve known for almost 15 years? And this someone isn’t just anyone. This someone is your best friend. Someone you’ve gotten used to seeing every day during the week. Someone you looked forward to seeing every day. What do you say?

Well, I guess I can start off by saying thank you. Thank you for being there when I needed someone to just listen. It doesn’t matter where we are in this world or in our lives, I know you will always be there to listen. As I will always be the same for you. Thank you for always being my best supporter. Thank you for not judging me for my sometimes poor decision-making skills. Thank you for late-night conversations. Thank you for remembering every inside joke we have ever created. And I mean every joke! Even if I don’t always remember them. Thank you for being brutally honest with me when I am being ridiculous.

Thank you for respecting my values and opinions, even if you disagree. Thank you for loving my family like you love your own. Thank you for fighting all of life’s battles by my side. Thank you for celebrating all of the exciting moments of my life with me and the many more to come. Thank you for forgiving me every time I might not have been the best friend in the entire world. Thank you for all you’ve taught me, even if you didn’t realize it at times. Thank you for always sharing your crazy stories with me. Thank you for being there through all of the significant others that I have mistakenly chosen. Thank you for listening to my long stories as though you haven’t already heard them a million times. Thank you for being strong when I was weak. Thank you for sharing your secrets with me, and for keeping mine. Thank you for sharing the past fourteen and a half years of your life with me. Thank you.

I honestly cannot believe that high school is over and soon we will both be going our separate ways in life. It’s hard to fathom that we won’t live a few houses down from each other anymore. Only on weekends when we are home from college. It’s going to be tough, but it’s OK. Because I know that no matter where we go in life, whether it’s a quarter mile away from each other or halfway across the world, you’ll always be my best friend. I’ll never come across someone who will be able to take your spot as my best friend. We’ve just got to remember that even though we change and we are both finding our own places in this world, nothing will ever change so much to the point where we’re not still best friends. Later on in life I know I’m going to be able to look back and remember that you were the one who lifted my head when I was losing faith in myself. I know I’m going to remember how you were that one person who knew who I really was. Most importantly, I know I’m going to remember that you were that one person who made the biggest difference in my life.

There really aren't enough words to even begin to describe how much you mean to me. We have the highest expectations for each other and I know that you will be successful in anything you choose to do. Writing this to you is hard, because honestly, I’m scared to admit how truly sad I am to know this will be the end of school with you. There are so many things that I will miss about you next year, from how much of an angel you were to your contagious smile. There’s no one else who can make me laugh so hard that my sides actually begin to kill with pain. I’m going to miss the countless hours we would spend playing Mario Kart and Wii Fit. I’m going to miss you sitting in my kitchen eating cookie after cookie. While you may be one of the craziest individuals that I have ever met in the last 14-and-a-half years of my life, I know you will always be making others laugh if you’re not there making me laugh.You always manage to light up a room. You’ll forever be the life of the party and you never fail at making everything interesting.

It’s going to be hard not being able to run up to each other every day and share our crazy stories or rant about something that just happened during the previous class. I know there will be times after a long day of classes or work when I wish I could just head over to your house, plop down on your bed in your room and play Mario Kart while we talk about our day. I want you to know that whatever happens, whoever you become and whoever the future shapes you to be, I will always be here for you. Whether a drive or a phone call away, I will always be here. We may not be able to spend the next few years seeing each other every day, but I know that you will make a huge impact on those who meet you in the time to come.

The past 14-and-a-half years of my life have been fantastic. I want to thank you for simply being the person you are and for letting me have the honor of being your best friend. I will see you up on that stage when we sit there in the gym at Carrabec High School for the last time together. As soon as we march out that door, you can bet that I will be the first one to run up to you and hug you, and probably cry, and tell you that we made it. Here’s to an amazing future and to a lifelong friendship.

Back to the fairy tale thing for a moment. Now that I think of it, I don’t see why I called our friendship in the beginning a fairy tale. Fairy tales have happy endings, right? Well, our friendship may be a happy one, but it will never have an ending.

Cover Image Credit: Jeff Pouland

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Overwatch's Pink Mercy: Playing For a Cause

Blizzard Entertainment promotes Breast Cancer Awareness with new Charity Skin

This week, Blizzard Entertainment released a brand new skin for Mercy, one of the heroes you can play as in the popular FPS MOBA "Overwatch". In an effort to promote awareness for Breast Cancer Research, they are offering Pink Mercy, pictured above, for $15. This is a steep price for an Overwatch cosmetic, however every dollar that they raise from each purchase goes directly to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, with a minimum donation of $250,000.

But say you are just looking for a dope skin, so you can carry games in style as an elegant Magical Girl, this is the skin for you. It features a new design for the character and a handful of brand new sound effects that you simply cannot get on other Mercy skins. Beyond the skin and its unique effects, players can simply log into Overwatch between now and May 21 to receive a Breast Cancer Research Foundation exclusive player icon.

Almost everyone has a story about a family member or friend who has been affected by some form of cancer. It is a plague that touches many people, but it is one that we can combat. I urge you, if you have the funds, consider purchasing this awesome cosmetic. If you are in a bit of a financial pinch like me, and may not be able to afford this new skin, please consider sharing this information with your friends who also play Overwatch. The more people that hear about this, the more we can raise donations and awareness.

Find more information on how to purchase this skin here.

In the words of Mercy: HEROES NEVER DIE!

Cover Image Credit: Blizzard Entertainment

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