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Amy Iverson, Facebook
Manage ad preferences by hiding ads from third parties that have your information.

Have you ever wondered how Facebook chooses which ads to show you? Maybe you’re annoyed by them or creeped out at the possibility the company is using voice recordings to decide which ads it gives you.

When choosing ads for you, Facebook actually uses a lot of information that you have willingly given them. It uses likes, posts or comments you make on the social network, as well as your demographic information like age and location. Sometimes the data Facebook uses comes from third parties. You may have given your email address to a company that decides to advertise on Facebook. That makes it easy for Facebook to match your profile’s email with the email the advertiser has and to target ads to you.

You have more control than you may think about which ads you see on Facebook, though. While you may take great care in curating what content shows up in your feed, you may have never done the same when it comes to ads.

Start by clicking the three dots near the top right corner of any ad and select “Why am I seeing this?”

Amy Iverson, Facebook
It's easy to find out why Facebook shows you any ad.

A pop up window will tell you the exact reason that ad has appeared in your feed. The reason could be that you’ve visited that company’s website, or that you fit in the company’s preferred demographic. You can decide if that’s OK with you, or click on the “Options” drop down menu to hide any further ads from that advertiser.

From that pop up window, you can also click on “Manage your ad preferences.” Under “Advertisers,” you can view a list of companies that have collected information about you (like an email address or phone number). The company could have gathered this information from you when you signed up for coupons or when you gave your email address or phone number at the register of a brick-and-mortar store. I had so many companies pop up, and took joy in clicking the X to hide any future ads from dozens of companies. For some reason, I had tons of car dealerships and realtors on my list that are located nowhere near where I live. Why would I want to see an ad from BMW of Austin, or a real estate agent from Tampa when I live in Utah?

I had so many of these advertisers listed, I couldn’t even hide all all of them in one sitting. It was time consuming to get rid of all these potentially targeted ads, but I’m hopeful it will be worth it.

Amy Iverson, Instagram
Easily hide ads on Instagram so you never have to see them again.

Another tab worth visiting is “Ad settings” where you can decide whether you’d like to allow Facebook to use the data provided to them that other companies collect. This tab also lets you choose whether your Facebook friends will see ads based on actions you take (like sharing a post, or liking a page). The ad will show up in your friend’s feed, noting that you liked the company above the ad.

Also consider clicking the “Hide ad topics” tab where you can hide ads based on subject. Just select a advertising genre you want to avoid seeing in your feed, like alcohol or dating, and Facebook will weed those out.

If you’d like to get rid of customized ads based on your online activity across the board, consider visiting the non-profit Digital Advertising Alliance to see which participating companies have enabled customized ads for a certain browser. Then you can choose to opt-out of those ads for some companies, or all of them. Remember you’ll need to do this in every browser you use and that this does nothing for the data collection going on in mobile apps. You can go through this same practice through DAA’s AppChoices app.When I looked up my Safari account, it listed 109 companies currently customizing ads on my browser. I recognized six of them: Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Pinterest, The Walt Disney Company and Twitter. Since I don’t mind receiving ads from these entities, I left them on my list and opted out of every other company.

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You can also adjust settings on your phone so that the ads you see on Instagram and elsewhere have nothing to do with your online activity. For iPhone, go to Settings>Privacy>Advertising and turn off “Limit Ad Tracking." Change this in Google by going to your account and clicking “Data & personalization” on the left navigation panel. Click “Go to ad settings” and turn off “Ad Personalization.”

It would seem logical that users would prefer to see ads from websites they visit, since that suggests some interest. But if you don’t want Facebook or Google (or any company) to take your website and app visits into account, you have plenty of options.

Click here to watch Amy Iverson discuss social media ads on KSL 5's "Studio 5."