Facebook Thinks You Love Ads So Much, It’ll Helpfully Block Your Ad-Blocker For You

Image courtesy of Facebook

Facebook — one of the world’s largest advertising companies — magnanimously acknowledges that in your life on the internet, you’ve probably encountered some bad ads. And you almost certainly have, because online advertising can be obtrusive, creepy, and irritating to say the least. But Facebook thinks that they are so far ahead of the pack that you will actually want to see their ads, and so they’re going to circumvent your ad-blocker for your own good.

In a new blog post, Facebook is singing the praises of its own advertising, and how great, just great it is for you (the greatest!) because you’re about to see a lot more of it: Facebook is going to make your ad-blocker obsolete as far as their website is concerned.

Specifically, Facebook says that because it’s making its own ad-management tools more robust, you won’t need your non-Facebook tools anymore: “As we offer people more powerful controls, we’ll also begin showing ads on Facebook desktop for people who currently use ad blocking software,” the company writes.

Facebook clarifies that it is not paying any ad-blocking services to have its site or ads whitelisted (which is indeed something some sites do). Instead, the change seems to be coming at a fundamental code level that just makes it really, really hard for blockers to figure out which content is an ad and which isn’t.

In its generosity, of course, Facebook understands that you may still want to feel like you have some control over how you get advertised to. To that end, the company says its own ad preferences settings are now easier to use, letting you choose which interests not to be targeted by. You’ll also be able to opt-out of seeing ads from specific businesses that you have interacted with in the past, and that have your contact info.

But it’s worth observing that although you can always clear your preferences out, those interests repopulate over time based on your activity — what you put in your profile, what you do, and the devices you do it on, to say nothing of the stories you click, comments you “like,” and Pages you interact with.

It’s also worth noting that the profile information Facebook builds up about you over time can be, well, comically weird or in fact just plain wrong. For example mine, at the moment, thinks I am the African-American parent of a teenager aged 13-18, interested in travel to a small Irish hamlet; I am none of the above. (It also thinks that my sole hobby is the color blue.)

Given these issues, the average user may be forgiven for seeing less value in Facebook’s targeted advertising than Facebook and the companies that run ads on it do.

Facebook, of course, has a strong incentive to keep you seeing as many ads as you can put up with: it’s a business, a publicly owned one, and that means it’s always seeking to maximize revenue and profit. And, Facebook reminds everyone, it is a service that is free for its users… meaning the money to keep it up and running has to come from somewhere.

Meanwhile, this change only affects the portion of Facebook’s 1.7 billion users that are using the web site on traditional desktop or laptop PCs. That’s hundreds of millions of people, of course, but as a percentage of Facebook’s overall user base, it’s smaller than you think. Nearly 1.6 billion people are using Facebook’s mobile apps, and more than half of those — 967 million — are only connecting through mobile.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.