Facebook is using the massive collection of data it harvests on users to determine their likely political preferences, even when those users haven't provided a preference or may not be sure themselves.
The determination is based on data obtained "from your profile as well as actions you take on and off Facebook," according to the social networking giant, in order to enable more targeted advertising.
On the site, indicators that might come into play are a person's "likes," including whether a person supports campaign pages for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. But even if a user doesn't interact with anything political, the site will still seek to form a conclusion based on other factors, like the activity of other users or pages that a person interacts with. That could include, for instance, placing a user who "likes" a country music band on the website's list of suspected conservatives.
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Information Facebook obtains by continuing to track users once they leave the site is not as clear, though the conclusions it reaches are being made public. Users who log in can find out what the site suspects about their political affiliation at facebook.com/ads/preferences. Click on "Lifestyle and culture" and scroll down to "US Politics" to find out your purported preference.
A Facebook page explaining the site's snooping practices widely revealed on Wednesday that the company looks at 98 key data points in seeking to figure out its patrons. Those include basic demographic details, like age and ethnic background, but also more granular information, like the frequency of someone's coupon usage, and projections about a person's future, including the likelihood of when their next move will occur.