What Contextual Ads on Facebook Could Mean for Your Privacy – (It Isn’t Good)

privacy_eyeFacebook’s targeted ads are a common subject of complaints lodged against the site; the ads’ use of users’ personal information and interests often feels invasive. However, don’t expect that kind of technology to go away anytime soon. Indeed, according to Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, the site is currently working on “contextual ads” that would target users based on what they were doing online at any given moment. With this technology, Facebook could even serve ads on different websites.

“Our goal is in a privacy safe way to get information we can about what consumers want,” Sandberg said. “Whether that information comes from the kind of things people like on Facebook or other websites they visit, or contextual statements they might make in their status updates, our goal is to use that information in a privacy safe way to improve the targeting of the ads on Facebook.”

Facebook currently uses “Atlas,” a program that tracks users’ cookies across the web. When you forget to log out of Facebook in your browser or simply have an automatic log-in set up (as most people do), Facebook is able to track your activity on every page on the Internet that features some sort of Facebook plug-in like a “Like” button. This new proposed technology would go well above and beyond even that.

To give you some indication of how dire this development could be for your privacy, here is the headline of the article referenced above:  Think Cookies Hurt Your Privacy? You’ll Beg For Their Return Once You See What Google And Facebook Are Planning.