June 24, 2021

Pew Research Finds 74% of Facebook Users Did Not Know That the Social Platform Maintains a List of Their Interests, Traits

From Pew Research:

Most commercial sites, from social media platforms to news outlets to online retailers, collect a wide variety of data about their users’ behaviors. Platforms use this data to deliver content and recommendations based on users’ interests and traits, and to allow advertisers to target ads to relatively precise segments of the public. But how well do Americans understand these algorithm-driven classification systems, and how much do they think their lives line up with what gets reported about them? As a window into this hard-to-study phenomenon, a new Pew Research Center survey asked a representative sample of users of the nation’s most popular social media platform, Facebook, to reflect on the data that had been collected about them.

Facebook makes it relatively easy for users to find out how the site’s algorithm has categorized their interests via a “Your ad preferences” page. Overall, however, 74% of Facebook users say they did not know that this list of their traits and interests existed until they were directed to their page as part of this study.

[Clip]
Many Facebook users say they do not know the platform classifies their interests, and roughly half are not comfortable with being categorized

When asked how accurately they feel the list represents them and their interests, 59% of Facebook users say the list very (13%) or somewhat (46%) accurately reflects their interests. Meanwhile, 27% of Facebook users say the list not very (22%) or not at all accurately (5%) represents them.

Yet even with a majority of users noting that Facebook at least somewhat accurately assesses their interests, about half of users (51%) say they are not very or not at all comfortable with Facebook creating this list about their interests and traits. This means that 58% of those whom Facebook categorizes are not generally comfortable with that process. Conversely, 5% of Facebook users say they are very comfortable with the company creating this list and another 31% declare they are somewhat comfortable.

Most Facebook users do not know the platform lists their interests for advertisers, and half are not comfortable with these lists

Read the Complete Report, View Charts (approx. 2350 words)

Direct to Report (23 pages; PDF)

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

Share