3 common Facebook rumors debunked

Facebook's advertising may keep your info more private than you think.


Fidel Martinez

Internet Culture

Published Oct 1, 2012   Updated Jun 2, 2021, 10:18 am CDT

Through the course of its existence, Facebook has had to deal with issues concerning the privacy of its users.

In a page entitled “Facebook Myths” the company makes a concerted effort to dispel any false notions people might have about how it handles their personal information—along with comical yet apparently legitimate questions like “Can people tell that I’ve looked at their timeline?”

Below, we’ve compiled three common myths about the social network that pertain to how they manage their users’ privacy.

1) Advertisers have access to your personal information.

The first privacy-related issue mentioned in the frequently asked question page is how much access advertisers have to your private data. The answer? None. “Facebook’s ad targeting is done anonymously by our system,” they write, “without sharing personally identifiable information with advertisers.”

Instead, advertisers decide which demographics they’re trying to go after and Facebook targets ads to those specific audiences without divulging your name, date of birth, what pages you like. You can rest assured that the local bakery doesn’t know your interests include cupcakes. That’s strictly between you and Facebook—which will handle showing you the ad whenever said bakery advertises on the platform entirely on its own.

2) Facebook sells your personal information.

The social network giant also states in no uncertain terms that it will never sell your information to anyone. Why would they? It’s their biggest asset.

As stated on their recent quarterly filing with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, Facebook “generate[s] substantially all of [their] revenue from advertising.” If they made your data available to other parties, they’d be giving away their cash cow. It’s likely why the social network behemoth is looking to expand its search capability: to compete with Google, who also makes the bulk of their revenue via targeted ads.

3) Sites that use Facebook plugins have access to your personal information.

A lot of sites across the Internet utilize Facebook’s social plugins. The Daily Dot, for example, uses the Subscribe button on the home page and the ubiquitous Like Button on every single story.

What data do sites get about you via these plugins? You guessed it. Nada.

“Because they have given Facebook this space on their sites, they do not receive or interact with the information that is contained or transmitted there.”

Confusing grammar aside, Facebook’s explanation states that sites which utilize the various plugins don’t get much about who Facebook’s users are beyond what they’ve publicly made available. The advantage of using these plugins isn’t getting a demographic breakdown. It’s to disseminate content to a much broader audience.

Photograph via Dave Rutt/Flickr

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*First Published: Oct 1, 2012, 10:51 am CDT