Friday 28 October 2016

How to see what sort of person Facebook thinks you are

Cara McGoogan

Published 04/10/2016 | 07:48

Facebook may have overestimated the average amount of time people spent watching video - by up to 80pc. (stock picture)
Facebook may have overestimated the average amount of time people spent watching video - by up to 80pc. (stock picture)

It can often feel like Facebook knows a creepy amount of information about you. Now the company has made it possible to see the detailed character profile the social network has built about you. 

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From your favourite news sources to your living situation, Facebook knows some quirky details about most of us. 

But what does information does it have about you? Here's how to see:

1. Go to

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Facebook introduced the revamped and easy-to-use ads preferences section on users' accounts at the same time that it stopped ad blockers from working on the site. The company said it wanted to "give people even more control over how their data informs the ads they see" and let them curate what sponsored posts appear in their news feeds.

What the section offers is a look at everything Facebook thinks it knows about you, from interests and hobbies to character traits and the devices you own.

2. Browse what Facebook thinks it knows about you

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At a first glance it might appear that a lot of the interests Facebook has listed for you are based on pages that you have liked. But if you go to the "Lifestyle and culture" section you can see some more of its speculative ideas. 

3. How accurate are its guesses?

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Some of the information in the "Lifestyle and culture" section is very accurate. For example, Facebook knows the devices I use on a regular basis, including the make and model of my phone, tablet, personal laptop and work computer. It also knows all the countries that I have connected to 4G in. 

That said, some of its guesses are less accurate. For example, it thinks I am a big fan of grizzly bears, beach houses and purity rings because I have liked the pages of bands with similar names to those obscure objects.

It has also mistaken me for a cricket enthusiast and sushi lover. The latter is my personal favourite, given that sushi is the only item Facebook lists for me under "Food and drink" but I almost never eat it.

4. Change what Facebook thinks of you

You can hover over any of the interests Facebook has saved for you and tap the X in the corner of the box to remove it from your advert preferences. Before removing them, you can click on an interest to see a preview of the types of adverts Facebook is likely to show you on your news feed based on that character trait. 

5. What else does Facebook know about you?

It is not clear if Facebook lists everything it knows about you in the ads preferences section, or if this is just a selection of the material it has. But it is not unlikely that it knows more about us than we can easily see. 

As well as watching everything its users do on its site and Instagram, the company also buys personal data about them from brokers, according to ProPublica

The bought information includes everything from mortgage information to what car you own and your shopping habits, and helps feed its 1,300 ad targeting categories. ProPublica said the company can offer such narrow profiles as people who own homes that have less than .26 acres of land to addresses that have at seven credit cards registered to them.

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