Even though Facebook has come under intense and well-publicised scrutiny about its use of data, it appears that three-quarters (74%) of American users are unaware the company lists their personal interests and traits on its “your ad preferences” page.

That is according to a new study published by the Pew Research Center, whose survey of 963 US adults also revealed that half (51%) said they were not comfortable with Facebook compiling this information.

And when directed to the “ad preferences” page, the great majority of users (88%) found that the site had generated some material for them, and more than a quarter (27%) said these listings did not accurately represent them.

The Pew survey, which was conducted in September 2018, also explored two controversial listings that are part of Facebook’s classification system – users’ political leanings and ethnic “affinities”.

About half of users (51%) in the survey were assigned a political affinity by Facebook, with around three-quarters (73%) reporting that their political categorisation was very or somewhat accurate, while 27% said it was not very or not at all accurate.

And looking at the “multicultural affinity” category, in which only 21% of users are listed – and is meant to reflect a user’s affinity rather than actual race or ethnic background – Pew found that 60% agreed they did share a very or strong affinity for the group to which they were assigned.

Commenting on the research, Facebook spokesman Joe Osborne said in a statement: “Pew’s findings underscore the importance of transparency and control across the entire ad industry, and the need for more consumer education around the controls we place at people’s fingertips.

“This year we’re doing more to make our settings easier to use and hosting more in-person events on ads and privacy.”

Sourced from Pew Research Center; additional content by WARC staff