74% of Americans Are Clueless about Facebook’s Data Collection Algorithm, Survey Says

Americans don’t know much about
Facebook and how its algorithm works, according to a survey from Pew Research
Center conducted on 963 US Facebook users. The
new study found
that 74 percent of Facebook users in the US did not
know that Facebook collects their traits and interests to help advertisers target
ads. Users were also unaware that they could access this information in account
settings.

Facebook doesn’t do this for free
but for the hefty profit that comes from playing with big data, a common
practice in the industry. Companies collect tons of online data about user
behavior. They use it to improve their business models, to increase revenue,
improve user experience through personalized content, as well as to sell to
third parties. Even companies that offer their services for free such as social
networks.

Asked to give their opinion on
how Facebook profiles them, many respondents disagreed with the algorithm’s
conclusions. The numbers show that almost half (51%) are “not comfortable” with
the method used to create personalized lists and 27 percent say they don’t fit
the descriptions because they are inaccurate. However, 59 percent do identity
with Facebook’s categorization and interest list.

Facebook was also interested in collecting data about
political affiliations, propaganda and racial and ethnic “affinities,” with a separate
“multicultural affinity” category. A quarter of users showed up in this
category, meaning their behavior shows an affinity for multiple racial and
ethnic groups.

“37% of Facebook users are both assigned a political
affinity and say that affinity describes them well, while 14% are
both assigned a category and say it does not represent them accurately,” says
the report.

“We want people to understand how
our ad settings and controls work,” reads
Facebook’s statement to The Verge. “That means better ads for people. 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.”

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