Raleigh, North Carolina — A new study from North Carolina State University found that about a third of all targeted ads on Facebook were inaccurate and irrelevant to those who saw them.
Facebook makes money by building user profiles based on what people post and selling ads that they describe to customers as targeting those users. For example, if you post on your timeline that you really like donuts, you’ll likely get donut ads targeted at you.
However, NCSU research found that Facebook’s technology doesn’t have the ability to decipher whether what you’ve posted is something that interests you. A user might post how much they hate cheese and then continue to receive cheese-targeted ads. , the researchers explained.
Researchers found that Facebook doesn’t differentiate between likes and dislikes when showing users ads. A user might dislike an article about cheese and see more cheese ads.
“Inaccurate interest profiles have both economic and privacy implications,” the document says. “From a financial perspective, advertisers need to know the effectiveness of their paid ads and ensure that ads are being shown to the right audience… This significantly reduces consumer transparency because users don’t know what actions trigger interest to be generated.”
While Facebook has a link for users to adjust their advertising preferences, NCSU research has shown that the majority of people using Facebook do not know how to limit the amount of information the social media site uses for their show advertisements. Researchers said the page that Facebook provides to its users is difficult to find. A user must click through six pages of settings to find their advertising preferences.
The NCSU recommends that Facebook improve its algorithm by taking into account what people dislike and give users more control over the ads shown to them by making it easier to access the ad preferences page.