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Facebook will soon be able to target ads based on what articles people 'Like' and 'Share'

Facebook is to let advertisers target ads using the browsing data it gains when someone uses its like or share buttons that publishers have installed on their sites.

The social network has known what people are browsing online via the buttons since they launched in 2010. But it has not used that data to target ads until now at a time when peoples’ interest in how their data is being used is at an all time high.

From next month, the millions of ‘Likes’ and ‘Share’ buttons hosted on publishers’ sites and apps will start pumping data on how they’re being used into Facebook’s ad targeting systems, including those for Instagram and mobile apps on its ad network. It makes true on the social network’s promise last year to start monetising that data as it accelerates efforts to expand cross-site and cross-app targeting.

For those users concerned about privacy, which has become a hot topic in the wake of Ashley Madison data hack, they can choose to opt out of those ads targeted based on non-Facebook activity.

“We’re introducing an additional way for people to turn off this kind of advertising from the ad settings page right on Facebook,” Facebook’s global deputy chief privacy officer Stephen Deadman wrote in a blog post.

"If you choose to use this tool, it will become the master control for online interest-based advertising across all of your devices and browsers where you use Facebook. If you’ve already made a choice about online interest-based ads using existing tools, you don't need to do anything. We'll continue to honor your choice across all of your devices and browsers where you use Facebook. And we’ll of course continue to support the Digital Advertising Alliance, as well as the iOS and Android tools going forward."

It builds on the social network’s attempts to source as much information on what its users do beyond its own platforms, while simultaneously building a more holistically online experience across its own services. Ecommerce ads based on people’s browsing activity is a key part of how News Feeds are served and its Audience Network taps Facebook data to target messages hosted on third-part apps.

The announcement comes in the same week that the social network dismissed claims it’s forcing advertisers to operate within a closed ecosystem, which in turn makes it harder to run mulit-channel campaigns. Speaking to The Drum, Facebook’s vice president of advertising technology Brian Boland said that any restrictions it does place on advertisers’ view on audience data is motivated by its eagerness to ptect the privacy of its 1.5 billion users.

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