Is social media stalking us? Expert says there are ways to beat those targeted ads


COLUMBUS, Ohio - The more you're on social media, the more it seems those platforms are stalking you.

"It has to be," said Dana Delgado who uses Instagram, Facebook and SnapChat. "My husband and I always thinking, 'How am I getting these ads for things we were just talking about?' And, it’s so crazy."

All it takes is a text or conversation, and it seems social media is able to filter ads onto your timeline about the very thing you were privately inquiring about.

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Matthew Curtin is a cybersecurity analyst. He says social media stalking is a real possibility.

"You probably have the Facebook app on your phone," he explained. "The Facebook app probably has permission to your microphone. It probably has permission to your camera. And so, you are just going to assume that Facebook- out of the goodness of their hearts- won't turn it on? That's not very likely."

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of Congress last year and said the company does not listen to people's conversations.

"No. Let me be clear on this: You're talking about this conspiracy theory that gets passed around that we listen to what's going on on your microphone and use that for ads," Zuckerberg told Sen. Gary Peters. "We don't do that."

In a recent CBS This Morning interview with the head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri said the frequency of relevant ads on your timeline is "dumb luck."

On the other hand, Curtin says information-gathering has become so detailed and advanced that those ads could be a result of what you post and "like."

"In the case of social media, it’s like a magazine that has been prepared for everyone individually. So, the ads that are being placed are not generally for people who have your income and have your education and so on, but are going to be specific to you," said Curtin.

Curtin says the best way to protect yourself from third-party advertising is to limit the information you share publicly.

"When they ask what your name is: it doesn't have to be the name on your license. What your age is: it doesn't have to be the time you were actually born... What are they going to do? Fire you? You can lie. I advise it."

Curtin also recommends using an "onion router," like Tor, which is an internet browser that routes traffic through multiple servers, therefore blocking any third-party tracking.