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Facebook knows more about your personal life than you probably realize. As part of the company’s increasingly aggressive advertising operation, Facebook goes to great lengths to track you across the web. The company compiles a list of personal details about every user that includes major life events and general interests. For years, details have been murky about how exactly the social network targets ads—but the company has finally given us a glimpse into how the secret sauce is made.


Facebook published a new targeted ad education portal and updated its ad preference settings to make them easier for users to understand. The tools reveal all 98 personal data points Facebook uses to target adverting at you—and you wouldn’t be wrong to feel a little uneasy about what Facebook knows and uses to sell advertising, though there’s no evidence that anything nefarious is going on here at all. It just feels weird!

There are plenty of obvious characteristics that Facebook knows about its users, such as whether they’re getting married, just returned from vacation, or are about to have a baby. Most of that personal data is collected when people voluntarily post to Facebook or update their profiles.


But then there’s creepier stuff that definitely isn’t submitted voluntarily, such as the number of credit lines you have, whether you’re an investor, what you invest in, whether you carry a balance on your credit card, whether you use coupons, and whether you’re likely to move.

Facebook explains its ability to gather this incredibly detailed personal information in a few ways. First, and most obviously, it tracks your activity on the site, your personal devices, and your location settings. What’s less obvious is that the company also tracks virtually every other website you visit.

As The Washington Post points out, Facebook knows every time you visit a page with a “like” or “share” button. It also gives publishers a tool called Facebook Pixel that allows both parties to track visits from any Facebook user. It also works with companies like Epsilon and Acxiom who gather information from government records, warranties and surveys, and commercial sources (such as a magazine subscription lists) to learn more about Facebook users.


By compiling all of this information, the social media giant can begin to make conclusions about whether you’re likely to be a parent, married, an expat, or intend to buy a vehicle. Then they sell you as a target to advertisers. The assumptions the company makes aren’t always correct, but it doesn’t matter. Facebook built a $355 billion empire almost entirely on this information, and it doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

If you’re curious about all the data points Facebook is using to target ads to you, here’s the full list:



  1. Location
  2. Age
  3. Generation
  4. Gender
  5. Language
  6. Education level
  7. Field of study
  8. School
  9. Ethnic affinity
  10. Income and net worth
  11. Home ownership and type
  12. Home value
  13. Property size
  14. Square footage of home
  15. Year home was built
  16. Household composition
  17. Users who have an anniversary within 30 days
  18. Users who are away from family or hometown
  19. Users who are friends with someone who has an anniversary, is newly married or engaged, recently moved, or has an upcoming birthday
  20. Users in long-distance relationships
  21. Users in new relationships
  22. Users who have new jobs
  23. Users who are newly engaged
  24. Users who are newly married
  25. Users who have recently moved
  26. Users who have birthdays soon
  27. Parents
  28. Expectant parents
  29. Mothers, divided by “type” (soccer, trendy, etc.)
  30. Users who are likely to engage in politics
  31. Conservatives and liberals
  32. Relationship status
  33. Employer
  34. Industry
  35. Job title
  36. Office type
  37. Interests
  38. Users who own motorcycles
  39. Users who plan to buy a car (and what kind/brand of car, and how soon)
  40. Users who bought auto parts or accessories recently
  41. Users who are likely to need auto parts or services
  42. Style and brand of car you drive
  43. Year car was bought
  44. Age of car
  45. How much money user is likely to spend on next car
  46. Where user is likely to buy next car
  47. How many employees your company has
  48. Users who own small businesses
  49. Users who work in management or are executives
  50. Users who have donated to charity (divided by type)
  51. Operating system
  52. Users who play canvas games
  53. Users who own a gaming console
  54. Users who have created a Facebook event
  55. Users who have used Facebook Payments
  56. Users who have spent more than average on Facebook Payments
  57. Users who administer a Facebook page
  58. Users who have recently uploaded photos to Facebook
  59. Internet browser
  60. Email service
  61. Early/late adopters of technology
  62. Expats (divided by what country they are from originally)
  63. Users who belong to a credit union, national bank or regional bank
  64. Users who investor (divided by investment type)
  65. Number of credit lines
  66. Users who are active credit card users
  67. Credit card type
  68. Users who have a debit card
  69. Users who carry a balance on their credit card
  70. Users who listen to the radio
  71. Preference in TV shows
  72. Users who use a mobile device (divided by what brand they use)
  73. Internet connection type
  74. Users who recently acquired a smartphone or tablet
  75. Users who access the Internet through a smartphone or tablet
  76. Users who use coupons
  77. Types of clothing user’s household buys
  78. Time of year user’s household shops most
  79. Users who are “heavy” buyers of beer, wine or spirits
  80. Users who buy groceries (and what kinds)
  81. Users who buy beauty products
  82. Users who buy allergy medications, cough/cold medications, pain relief products, and over-the-counter meds
  83. Users who spend money on household products
  84. Users who spend money on products for kids or pets, and what kinds of pets
  85. Users whose household makes more purchases than is average
  86. Users who tend to shop online (or off)
  87. Types of restaurants user eats at
  88. Kinds of stores user shops at
  89. Users who are “receptive” to offers from companies offering online auto insurance, higher education or mortgages, and prepaid debit cards/satellite TV
  90. Length of time user has lived in house
  91. Users who are likely to move soon
  92. Users who are interested in the Olympics, fall football, cricket or Ramadan
  93. Users who travel frequently, for work or pleasure
  94. Users who commute to work
  95. Types of vacations user tends to go on
  96. Users who recently returned from a trip
  97. Users who recently used a travel app
  98. Users who participate in a timeshare

[Washington Post]