This week, Facebook outlined a new method of micro-targeting ads to its users. In a Facebook for Business blog post published on Tuesday, the company explained its new “local awareness” marketing platform, which would allow businesses to show ads to Facebook users in their vicinity.
You could probably call “local awareness” an inevitability. Merging details about a person’s behavior both online and off is a lucrative business, especially now that Facebook’s driving nearly 60% of its ad revenue on mobile devices. Another unique thing about Facebook: It probably has unparalleled access to this kind of data. Brick-and-mortar shops have already been trying to anticipate the movements of their shoppers by partnering with data brokers, but every now and again the practice has provoked a backlash from people who find it incredibly creepy.
Now that Facebook released its “people-based marketing” service Atlas, it’ll likely be able to more efficiently track its users across the web and various devices than ever. But Facebook also took care to address some privacy concerns in its post, and noted that you could simply turn off location services on your phone to block these kinds of ads:
Local awareness ads were built with privacy in mind. Advertisers select locations, not specific individuals, for local awareness ads. Facebook does not tell advertisers which specific people are in any audience and, as with our other advertising products, all audiences must meet a minimum required size. People have control over the recent location information they share with Facebook and will only see ads based on their recent location if location services are enabled on their phone. (To see if location services are enabled, check your phone’s Settings menu.)
For some (like Fast Company’s own Jason Feifer), this might be welcome news: Ads that don’t totally suck! But to others, Facebook’s growing dominion over mobile ad technology has raised significant privacy concerns–even if the data is “anonymized.” (Note: It’s really, really easy to de-anonymize data.) Like it or not, the future of advertising knows how many Facebook friends you have–and where you live.