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Facebook delivering targeted ads based on user activity

Facebook has expanded its advertising platform to allow for ads based on your purchase history across desktop and mobile.

The program, dubbed "partner categories," is intended to allow advertising partners to target more people than before, Facebook said.

"To date, advertisers have been able to show ads to people based on their expressed interests on Facebook," according to the social network. "Now with partner categories, they can also show ads to people on Facebook based on the products and brands they buy across both desktop and mobile."

According to Facebook, the new system might allow a local car dealership to show ads to people who live nearby and are in the market for a new car, based on data collected by third parties like Acxiom, Datalogix, and Epsilon.

No personal information is shared between Facebook, third-party companies, or advertisers, the company promised. Partner categories works similarly to all Facebook targeting — the advertiser knows only the size of the audience, and can't access any information about individuals included in a category.

"Companies have long used this type of targeting off of Facebook, and we are excited to make this available to advertisers of all sizes," Facebook said.

Partner categories currently boasts more than 500 unique groups, like "Cereal Buyers," which includes more than 14.8 million people "who are heavy buyers of cereal," and can be broken down further into the categories of children's, fiber, and hot.

According to Facebook, those included in the "Children's Cereal" subcategory spent three times or more than the US national average on children's cereal in the last year, based on loyalty card swipes and transaction-level household purchase data. Those in categories like car buying are culled and verified using actual vehicle registration data.

Partner categories can be integrated with other Facebook targeting options, so advertisers can really narrow the scope of their marketing campaigns. US advertisers can access partner categories in Power Editor and through the API today.

Facebook has been burned before when it comes to targeted ads, so the company this time outlined in a blog post how it works with third-party sites.

Facebookers can find out more about any advertisement (click the dropdown menu then choose "About This Ad"), dismiss a particular ad or partner company, and access audience segment information that has been associated with them.

Recently, the social network expanded its Facebook Exchange (FBX) into the News Feed, where advertisers can serve ads based on users' browsing history.