Feb. 6, 2013 at 3:52 PM ET
Facebook, under pressure to beef up privacy disclosures and transparency to users, will start letting users know when ads are targeted to them, although it may take a bit of work to find that out, and it doesn't apply to all ads on the site.
The social network will start using the Digital Advertising Alliance’s blue-and-white AdChoices icon for targeted ads that are produced through the Facebook Exchange. The exchange is a new ad program from Facebook that lets advertisers "serve more relevant ads through cookie-based data that advertisers own," as FBHive.com describes it.
Targeted ads on Facebook are those that, for example, have been tracking the things you click on as a "likes." Say a Facebook friend posts a photo of a birthday gift and says "Gold bracelet from husband," and you click "like," you may find yourself seeing ads for "Cash for gold. Need extra cash? We pay top dollar for..." and so on. It's creepy, but there you have it.
You won't know right away whether such ads are targeted; you'll need to use your mouse to hover an to the gray "x" shown above it in the corner.
"Even the 'x' only appears when someone mouses over it, so people not familiar with the feature won't always be made aware that an ad was targeted using third-party data gathered elsewhere online," notes Ad Age.
A Facebook spokesperson told NBC News that clicking on the "x" leads to three options, including one to opt out from getting more of the ads if you don't want them.
The three options, she said: "Hide this ad, hide all ads from this company, or 'about this ad.' If you choose 'about this ad,' you’re are taken to the home page for that ad network and from there, you can decide to opt out."
The AdChoices icons are expected to make their debut next month.
Last summer, the Federal Trade Commission approved a settlement with Facebook about federal charges that the site had deceived consumers and forced them to share more personal information than they intended. The settlement requires Facebook to get user consent for some changes to privacy settings and subjects the social networking site to 20 years of independent audits.
The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program, an investigative unit of the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council, which administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, said in a statement that Facebook's use of the AdChoices icon "provides 'clear, meaningful and prominent' notice and choice" for consumers who receive targeted ads.
Brian Boland, Facebook's director of product marketing, said in a statement that the sovial network has "always given our users the ability to provide feedback on and control the ads they see on Facebook, by hiding, reporting, or clicking through to learn more about why particular ads are being served."
Use of the AdChoices icon is "no different for ads served through the Facebook Exchange, where users can also opt out of seeing ads from our FBX partners. Giving advertisers the ability to implement the AdChoices icon provides another option; another mechanism of control. The more transparency and control we can provide, the better the experience for both advertisers and users."