Lesson 3: Targeted advertisement

Introduction: What is targeted advertisement?

  1. Introduce students to the definition of targeted advertising below:
    1. According to Oxford Reference Online, targeted advertising is defined as “the process of conceiving, developing, placing, and testing highly targeted advertisements in social networks (e.g., Facebook) based on detailed data on the personal profile information and interactions of users” (reference).
    2. While these ads might seem harmless or sometimes even seem “helpful” to users, targeted advertising algorithms can become an issue due to their invasion of privacy, especially when many users are not aware of it.


  1. Have you encountered any targeted ads, while scrolling on social media recently?
  2. How accurately did they reflect your interests or needs?


Targeted advertising is using the information you share with the platform, ads or websites you have visited (using cookies), as well as other algorithms to match the ad to your specific preferences.

Watch this video about Echo Chambers to understand how targeted advertising works.


Attribution: Citizen Literacy was created by Robert Detmering, Amber Willenborg, and Terri Holtze for University of Louisville Libraries and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.

Activity 1. Let’s explore what Google knows about you. 

  1. Watch a video about Echo Chambers above.
  2. Log in to your Google account on your phone or laptop.
  3. Go to Manage your Google Account, click the Data & Privacy tab.
  4. Scroll down to My Ad Center.
  5.  Scroll through the personal information Google has collected about you including your presumed age and gender, relationship status, household income, education level, industry, homeowner, parent.
    Attribution: This teaching activity was inspired by Dr. Abigail Koenig, College of Business, University of Louisville


    Discussion questions:

      1. How accurate is Google about you?
      2. Was there anything that surprised you?
      3. What information (e.g. ads.) would you “recommend” to someone with these characteristics?
      4. What, in your opinion, is the trade-off, when it comes to our personal information?

Activity 2. Compare what different algorithmic systems know about you.

Explore ad centres in two of the following:

  1. Google Advertising Profile
  2. Facebook Advertising Profile
  3. Twitter Advertising Profile
  4. Instagram Advertising Profile

Discussion questions:

  1. Was information across two platforms about you similar?
  2. Were there any significant differences?
  3. Which platform was more accurate? Did it correspond to the level of your engagement with that platform?

Activity #3. Data as currency

Watch the following short video, entitled We sold our Data for a cappuccino.

Attribution: Digital Skills Education. (2022, May 2). We SOLD our DATA for a cappuccino ☕ | The Ethical Dilemma Café in Manchester. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQrgcL6jHw0

 Discussion questions:

  1. Would you sell your data for coffee?
  2. Do you think you already sell your data for access to platforms, like Facebook? How does it make you feel?
  3. Zerilli (2021) stated that “If it’s free on the internet, you’re the product,” (p. 97). Do you agree with this statement? What does it mean to you?