With the introduction of its ad preferences tool earlier this month, Facebook has made it easier than ever for users to control the advertisements they see in their Newsfeeds. However, this newfound transparency also means that you can now see all of your private information that Facebook has gathered for advertisers, including data about your job, your home and your family. However, one of the most important items that Facebook thinks it knows about you is your exact political leaning.
To find out what the site thinks about your political views, go to facebook.com/ads/preferences. Then, under the “Interests” header, click the “Lifestyle and Culture” tab. In that section, there is a box labeled “US Politics” that will display how Facebook has labeled you.
Perhaps most disturbingly, Facebook will infer your political affiliation based on other things you’re interested in even if you haven’t told it exactly which direction you lean. As The Verge points out, if you like the National Rifle Association Facebook page, you’re statistically more likely to be right wing, and Facebook will categorize you as such. The site can also peg your politics by analyzing the pages that your friends like, too, and if there is enough of an overlap between their likes and yours, Facebook will group you in with your friends.
While many users are aware and begrudgingly accept that Facebook gathers sensitive data for commercial purposes, grouping users off based on politics is another thing entirely. With valuable information like that, Facebook could play a major role in future elections — and that’s a troubling thought.