Chris DeLuca's webbed site

My Facebook Ad Data

Today I downloaded all the data Facebook has on me, and started poking through it. Since it’s been the focus of every privacy scandal, I went straight to the ad data. I found two items.

  1. My ad “interests”, a simple keyword list
  2. A file called advertisers_who_uploaded_a_contact_list_with_your_information.json

Now, Facebook made more than 4 billion dollars last year, and their business model is built entirely on selling user behavior to advertisers, so it seems impossible that not only is this all the data they have on me, but that it’s also this simplistic. Be that as it may, let’s take it at face value.

My “interests”

There are 39 “topics” that Facebook has identified as one of my interests. I’ve been on Facebook since 2010, but was never a heavy user, and have cut back significantly in the past several years, so the data is pleasantly skewed.

Here’s the whole list.

  1. Alternative dance
  2. Alternative rock
  3. American Gods (TV series)
  4. Arts and music
  5. Batman Begins
  6. Blues rock
  7. British blues
  8. Casual game
  9. Chillwave
  10. Cillian Murphy
  11. Cream (band)
  12. Deathwish Inc.
  13. Decorative arts
  14. Dunce
  15. Dune (novel)
  16. Dungeons & Dragons
  17. Emo (music)
  18. Facebook
  19. Folk art
  20. Folk rock
  21. Frank Herbert
  22. Future (rapper)
  23. Games
  24. Glidden (paints)
  25. Grunge
  26. Hardcore punk
  27. Hong Kong
  28. Humans of New York
  29. Indie rock
  30. Ken Watanabe
  31. Led Zeppelin
  32. Mannequin
  33. Paper
  34. Pop music
  35. Professional wrestling match types
  36. Rock music
  37. Studio
  38. Tom Wilkinson
  39. Wally Pfister

Without giving too much away (because why give advertisers a handout?), I’d say I have a genuine interest in about half the listed topics, which is honestly a pretty good (for them) error rate for the kind of dragnet campaigns advertisers run on the web.

Yet some of these keywords are bonkers. Like “Studio”. Studio? What ad exec in their right mind wakes up and says, “You know who we need to target? People with a keen interest in ‘Studio’.”

Here be the glories of the algorithm.

The uploaded contact list

There are 1,349 “advertisers who uploaded a contact list with your information.” There’s no indication on how many times this data was uploaded, or where it was uploaded, or even what data was uploaded. It’s just a list of companies.

Some of the companies I recognize, like Airbnb and AARP (zing?), and others I had to look up, like Ebates and ConversioBot (A shady cash loan service and a shady chat bot service, respectively).

And some companies seemed to want to really cover their bases, like:

  1. Toyota Escondido
  2. Toyota Hawaii
  3. Toyota Marin
  4. Toyota of Bedford
  5. Toyota Of Berkeley
  6. Toyota of Braintree
  7. Toyota of Cedar Park
  8. Toyota of Dallas
  9. Toyota of Des Moines
  10. Toyota of Dothan
  11. Toyota of Easley
  12. Toyota of Fayetteville
  13. Toyota of Fort Worth
  14. Toyota of Hackensack
  15. Toyota of Hollywood
  16. Toyota of Irving
  17. Toyota of Massapequa
  18. Toyota of Melbourne
  19. Toyota of Nashua
  20. Toyota of Pharr
  21. Toyota of Redlands
  22. Toyota of Scranton
  23. Toyota of Southern Maryland
  24. Toyota of Stamford
  25. Toyota of Surprise
  26. Toyota of Tampa Bay
  27. Toyota of Terre Haute
  28. Toyota of Turnersville
  29. Toyota of Wallingford
  30. Toyota of York
  31. Toyota Santa Monica
  32. Toyota South

I sifted through the companies looking for anything overtly political, since that’s the really big focus of Facebook’s scandals. All I found was a single, lonely company:

  1. Conservative Party of New York State

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it, but I can pretty safely say they’re barking up the wrong tree.

But remember, this data isn’t just mine (as much as any of this data is ours). It’s yours, too, because these data talks about where I showed up in a contact list, which includes however many other people.

Scary? Don’t worry, things feel so much better from behind the wheel of a brand new Toyota!

πŸ’¬ 0 replies