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Facebook thinks it can guess your political views, so we put it to the test

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Facebook thinks it can guess your political views, so we put it to the test

WATCH: We ask people whether Facebook classified their political views correctly

Just three clicks away

With just three clicks, you can find out what Facebook thinks your political views are.

As first reported by The New York Times, you can see what the social network has you classified as when it targets ads at you.

Are you "very liberal," "very conservative" or "moderate"?

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Facebook gives you ads based on what it thinks your political views are.

Here's how you can find out:

1) Go to www.facebook.com/ads/preferences

2) Click on the "Lifestyle and culture" tab

3) Look for "US Politics"

Your political views, as they are perceived by Facebook, should be listed by Facebook.

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Follow the three steps above to find out whether Facebook thinks you're liberal or conservative.

Does it actually work?

We decided to go out into the streets to put this notion to the test. Does Facebook really know us as well as it thinks it does?

"It says 'very liberal,' which is more or less correct," Marco Mendoza said. "But the thing is I kind of feel more of a moderate."

The reason it may not be completely accurate is because the algorithm goes off the pages you like. If a lot of the pages you like have likes from conservative users, then it assumes you're also conservative.

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User Marco Mendoza says Facebook came close to guessing his political views correctly.

At the mercy of the likes

"Yeah, they got it right," said Yesenia Peña.

"I'm not an ad-driven person," added Peña. "What Facebook thinks about my views really doesn't matter. It won't sway me either way."

One way to make sure Facebook gives you ads that align with your political views is to fill out the "Political views" section of their profile.

In other words, only users who didn't fill that out when setting up their profile are at the mercy of the pages they like.

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Aviva, who preferred not to give her last name, says Facebook has her political views down to a T.

Already blocked conservatives

"They have me as extremely liberal, which is pretty accurate," said Aviva.

Users can stop ads targeted at their political views from rolling in by simply clicking an X icon, so will she do it?

"I mean I already blocked all my family members who are extremely conservative," she said. "So I probably just set up myself for success anyway."

Not that big a deal

Technically speaking, you could change what politically-laced ads pop up on your feed by changing which pages you like. Or you could block off political ads entirely by switching them off in the preferences dashboard.

So how big of a deal is it that you can control what political ads you see on your feed?

Not that big, according to Ethan Porter, an assistant professor at the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs.


No magic ability

"Facebook doesn't have a sort of magical ability to peer into people's souls," said Porter. "Which is to say, their information is information that you've already publicly presented."

"And if you happen to follow Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton because you want to see what they're doing, but your preferences are for one candidate or the other, they're going to regard you as more moderate than you are."

Why is Facebook making this information known?

Facebook didn't say, but it has allowed users to toggle which preferences influence the ads they see since 2014.

"Is Facebook going to put this front and center of people's homepages on the day of the election? On the week before the election?" said Porter. "My guess is that... they're trying to see what the public reaction would be.

"And if the public reaction is, cool, this is interesting to know, then you can imagine Facebook making it more prominent."

More consumer control is a good thing.
Gary WIlcox, University of Texas at Austin

Gary WIlcox, University of Texas at Austin:

"Marketers and organizations that recognize privacy issues, anticipate market demands and work to understand and alleviate consumer privacy concerns by setting new standards for data capture, use, and individual protections will not only protect their protections and the value of their business models, but gain competitive advantage."

Did Facebook get your political views right?

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