If you are like me, you probably ignore the emails from Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites updating users about new privacy policies. With recent news about Verizon and AT&T tracking users with supercookies and the data breaches across retail chains, it seems like we cannot escape companies and their invasion of our privacy. Recently, I took a quick look at that Facebook email and noticed something interesting. Part of the email read, “You can opt out of seeing ads on Facebook based on the apps and sites you use through the Digital Advertising Alliance. You can also opt out using controls on iOS and Android. When you tell us you don’t want to see these types of ads, your decision automatically applies to every device you use to access Facebook.”
Really? Much like opting out of junk mail offers from credit card companies, I was intrigued by this option. I was unaware of it because usually this information is buried in links somewhere. I clicked on the link to the Digital Advertising Alliance, and was led to another Facebook page which ultimately led me to the Opt Out from Behavioral Advertising website. All you have to do after the page finishes loading is click “Select all Shown” and the “Submit Your Choices” (see photo). There are some big caveats. Opting out only applies to internet based ads from participating companies, not banner ads, email ads, pop-ups, or spam.  Additionally, opting out does not stop companies from collecting data, it only “tells the participating companies to stop delivering internet based advertisements to that browser.” Finally, opting out does not work if your browser is set to block third party cookies.
So unfortunately, this is not the powerful cure-all I was hoping for. But what’s interesting is seeing a large list of internet marketing companies with strange names like 33Across and Acxiom. It at least makes the ads a little less anonymous. Some might not see all this work as worth it, but others might. This useful article on Mashable by Max Knoblauch explains the how to opt out from the most common sites. So if you are sick of TV ads, Facebook ads, radio ads, any kind of ads, opting out might be worth the time.
For further reading:
File a Complaint http://www.aboutads.info/enforcement
Network Advertising Initiative http://www.networkadvertising.org/
 “How Interest Based Ads Work,” Digital Advertising Alliance, http://www.aboutads.info/how-interest-based-ads-work#about-opt-out