1. Advertisers aren’t just targeting ‘your type anymore.’ They’re actually targeting you.
It used to be that advertisers tried to reach a particular audience, i.e., “25-year-old men that like sports cars and Little Ponies.” But now advertisers are finding ways to target specific people, i.e. the guy they know has the email address “IamaBrony@gmail.com.” Thanks to “Custom Audiences,” if a marketer knows your email address or phone number, they can tell Facebook to specifically target you with an ad. Tyson writes:
For example, a shoe store might want to show a special offer to people who have already bought shoes from them. The store can provide us with “hashes” of their customers’ email addresses so that we can show those same people the ad without the store having to send us the actual email addresses. These hashes are bits of text that uniquely identify a piece of data (such as an email address) but are designed to protect against reverse engineering which would reveal that data. Since Facebook and the store use the same method to create each hash, we can compare the store’s hashes to hashes of addresses in our records and show the ad to any group of users that match. If a hash from the store does not match any of ours, we discard it without ever discovering the corresponding email address and without storing any information that we did not have before. And once we no longer need the hashes that do match, we delete them too.
Facebook is not the only tech company making it easier to target specific people with ads. This summer, ProPublica detailed how Microsoft and Yahoo are now allowing advertisers to target specific people with ads if they know their email addresses. That means ads are starting to become like direct mail, except those who see the ads don’t realize it, because their address isn’t on the front of the digital envelope.
The whole article is worth a read, as the privacy implications are terrifying.