Stop Facebook’s targeted advertising by changing your account settings

Kim Komando

Let me be frank: I only keep a Facebook account to engage with listeners of my national radio show. I don’t use my personal account. I stepped away from the social media platform, and I never looked back.

I think everyone should take a social media break from time to time. It’s good for your mind and well-being.

That said, I understand why people still use Facebook. They want to feel connected. They might be lonely. If they didn’t have Facebook, they’d likely be involved in some other form of social media, like Twitter or Instagram. I don’t judge people who stay.

The key is to maintain real-world connections.

I do want to make sure your privacy is protected. Like many tech giants, Facebook actively collects information about you and uses this data for “targeted advertising.” You’ve seen this before: an ad closely mirrors your recent searches, even on different websites. Using cookies, information gets shared, and it gives you the impression that the internet is reading your mind, watching your screen, and listening to your conversations.

Those aren’t the only ones stalking you through social media. Cybercriminals love Facebook, and here are the many reasons.

How do you stop targeted ads? By digging into your settings – the settings you have full access to, but Facebook would rather you didn’t know about.

Adjust your Facebook ad preferences

You can do the following on Facebook’s desktop website, and you can also access ad preferences through your Facebook app. From the site, click the on the downward arrow in the upper corner and click on Settings. Click on Ads on the left side. This opens the "Your ad preferences page."

Let’s start with the Your Interests section. Click on this to see a list of topics Facebook thinks you’re interested in based on your activity. For example, my interests included everything from Colorado to plant nurseries. You can hide ads associated with an interest by hovering over it and clicking on the X in the box.

Once you’ve reviewed your interests, check out the Advertisers section. This works just like interests. You can choose to hide ads from particular advertisers, which is useful if you're annoyed by a specific ad popping up all the time in your feed.

Tweak the information Facebook uses to target ads

The next section on tap is called Your information. This is the data Facebook uses to help advertisers target ads at you. The categories include relationship status, employer, job title and education. The toggle switches on the side let you choose whether or not to allow advertisers to use these. Feel free to turn them all off. Also, take a peek at "Your categories" in this same section. You can nix these as well by clicking on the X.

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Adjust your Facebook ad settings

The previous sections of your ad preferences are interesting, but now we’re getting to the big guns. Click on the Ad settings section to expand it. Here is where we can make substantial changes to throw targeted advertisers off your tracks.

Ads based on data from partners: If you already see the words “Not allowed" here, then you’re good to go. Otherwise, expand this setting, which controls "ads based on data we receive from partners about your offline activity." Yeah, that does sound a little creepy. In the drop-down box, choose Not allowed.

Ads based on your activity on Facebook Company Products that you see elsewhere: This section applies to websites, apps, and device that use Facebook's services to serve up ads outside of Facebook. This is why you might see the same ads lurking on both Facebook and seemingly unrelated websites. Look for the drop-down menu at the bottom and select "Not allowed."

Ads that include your social actions: This setting lets you control whether or not Facebook can use your activity in ads aimed at other people. For example, a Facebook friend might see an ad for a page that you’ve liked on the service. The two options in the drop-down menu here are "Only my friends" or "No One." Choose "No One" to keep yourself out of these sorts of ads.

There’s one final section to your ad preferences settings. Hide ad topics lets you block ads related to the potentially sensitive issues of alcohol, parenting or pets. You can choose to hide these for six months, a whole year or permanently.

While some people are choosing to ditch Facebook, there are also some compelling reasons to stay. If you’re in the stay camp, then you can make the experience more comfortable by adjusting your advertising preferences.

Following these steps won’t stop ads, but at least you won’t see the same pair of shoes tracking your every move, begging you to buy them.

What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim's free podcasts.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Stop Facebook’s targeted advertising by changing your account settings