Opting Out of Ad Tracking as a Communal Act

[Image description: Smiling friends lying in a flowery field cover each other's eyes. Photo by Sam Manns on Unsplash.]

A recent episode of Reply All talked about ad tracking on the Internet. While they remained unconvinced of certain users' sincere belief that Facebook is using the phone's microphone to spy on you, they found some pretty invasive things that Facebook and other sites are doing, including tracking your purchasing and browsing behavior on other websites, tracking your movements (for example, identifying when you travel, and which of your friends you are likely to be visiting). Social networks with friend/follower relationships, such as Facebook and Instagram, will advertise things your friends are interested in.

I don't know if I'm getting a lot of ads for things that my friends like, because I usually just get inundated with ads for sites and products I actually have visited (I online shop too much). For example, I'll look at a pair of shoes or a particular kind of underwear and I'll get a ton of ads for that. But the fact that Facebook is using your friend relationships made me realize that I am probably responsible for my friends getting ads for those things. That makes me feel kind of guilty.

Advertising works. It is pretty darn good at separating us from our money. The insidious thing is that we all think it doesn't work ON US, so we don't bother to turn off ad tracking, or we may even kind of like it. It may feel more pleasant to get ads for products you like than from ones you don't care about. From a frugal point of view, though, if I have to get ads, I'd rather get ads I can resist. And when I fail to resist, I don't want to be responsible for spilling my own consumerism onto other people's feeds.
I always thought that turning off ad tracking was something you did for yourself, but now I feel like it's something you do for everyone.

Reply All has a good guide for avoiding tracking by Facebook.


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