How Do People on Facebook Feel About the Accuracy of Categories in Their Ad Preferences?

Pew Research Center found results were more favorable among frequent and longtime users

Facebook's 'Why am I seeing this ad?' tool Facebook
Headshot of David Cohen

A new study from Pew Research Center arrived at some seemingly obvious conclusions about the correlation between usage of Facebook and how much the social network learns about people through that usage.

Pew conducted a survey in which Facebook users were asked to review their ad preferences on the social network, with roughly nine out of 10 finding information about them on those pages.

Not surprisingly, people who use Facebook several times daily or who have been on the social network for longer periods of time reported seeing more categories listed on their ad preferences pages.

Pew found that 44% of respondents who use the social network several times per day reported at least 21 categories, while that total was only reached by 34% of those who use Facebook once per day and 20% of those who access it less often.

Overall, 37% of respondents found 21 or more categories, while 30% found just one to nine.

52% of people with Facebook accounts that were more than 10 years old at the time of the survey found 21 or more categories, compared with 36% of those with accounts between five and 10 years old and 27% of those who had been on the social network for fewer than five years.

Pew said roughly one-third of accounts younger than one decade had fewer than 10 categories listed, while that number dropped to 18% for those with accounts for more than 10 years.

Pew Research Center

The think tank also found that respondents who found more categories on their ad preferences pages also found those categories to be more accurate than those who found fewer of them.

According to Pew, three-quarters of respondents with 21 or more categories said those categories were very or somewhat accurate, while just 58% of those with fewer than 10 categories felt the same.

Similarly, 72% of respondents who use Facebook multiple times daily said the categories listed for them at least somewhat accurately represented their interests, compared with 58% of those who don’t visit the social network every day.

Length of time that respondents have had their Facebook accounts wasn’t as much of a factor, as 67% of those who have been on the social network for more than 10 years found its information on them to be at least somewhat accurate, versus 66% of those who have been on Facebook for five to 10 years and 69% of those with accounts less than five years old.

In any event, fewer than 20% of overall respondents said the categories attributed to them were very accurate.

Pew Research Center

Privacy settings had little effect, according to Pew, which found that respondents who made changes to their privacy settings in the year prior to the study reported the same levels of accuracy as those who didn’t do so.

Pew found that just 14% of respondents knew that their ads preference pages existed prior to taking its survey.

Just four out of 10 respondents were somewhat comfortable with the existence of these lists—44% of those who use Facebook daily, compared with 34% of non-daily users.

And 52% of those who found their lists to be at least somewhat accurate were at least somewhat comfortable with the existence of those lists, versus 21% of those who felt that their categories were not very or not at all accurate. David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.