When Signal attempted to run a series of ads on Instagram describing exactly why viewers were being targeted, the ads were banned. Was it a waterfall? Probably. But did he highlight the dissonance of the Facebook ad platform? Absolutely.
Facebook, once a means of evaluating female students, has grown into a global platform with literally billions of users (2.8 billion at last count). While for most users it’s a way to share photos of your pets, kids, and COVID vaccination certificates, it’s basically an advertising platform – much like Google .
With revenue of $ 26.1 billion in the first quarter of 2021, Facebook’s biggest currency is data. The details of your life that you entered in your profile, from your birthday and where you live to your favorite band or what you like to eat. This data is used to allow advertisers to target their ads to the people most likely to want the product or service. This is also the reason why Apple’s new tracking transparency is a threat to Facebook’s revenue – unless you choose not to allow it, it can track your activity on different tabs or apps while Facebook remains open.
Advertisers love specific ads because they get better returns and allow them to direct a campaign to a very specific group of people. Google offers the same thing through its display and search ads, however, placing these ads directly in your Facebook or Instagram feed can be even more effective. We go blind to banner ads because we know they are trying to sell us something, and we ignore the terms of paid search results because we know they are getting paid. But placed between Katie’s kitchen disaster and Claire’s new puppy, we’re more likely to give her a read.
I have used Facebook ads and they are working. If you want to target Brits aged 25 to 45 living in Chicago, you can. If you want to join couples who have just got engaged, you can do that too. And because it’s so targeted, it costs less to promote.
This ultra-targeted advertising has huge benefits, both for the advertiser and for the user. Yes, the company’s advertising can drive more sales or engagement because it can go to the people most likely to want the product or service, but for the user you get ads that interest you . It could be a concert by your favorite band, an engagement ring sales site, or a rental agency in your area. Surely, it’s better to have ads for things you like than for things you don’t?
The problem is that Facebook users – and Internet users in general – are mostly unaware of the data they hand over to these companies. So when they find out that Facebook knows everything about their life, they tend to panic. It can be confusing to find out how much data we share. After Facebook allowed users to upload their information, some users were shocked. Unfortunately, this data has also been leaked, as happened in 2019, with details of over 500 million accounts being shared online for free.
Wired Magazine UK ran a special cover for subscribers in 2011, where they printed individual versions for a number of people who listed some of their personal information found online. The results were frightening, but an interesting experience.
So when Signal wanted to make it clear to his audience why he was being targeted – right down to the job title, location and last life events, he risked breaking that one-sided glass.
According to Gizmondo’s original report, Facebook claims that the ads were never placed in its system and if they had, some would have been rejected because its policies do not allow ads targeting medical conditions or sexual orientation. specific. Signal meanwhile claims that they tried to publish them and were banned for doing so.
Interestingly, Facebook didn’t suggest that it wouldn’t be possible to target these factors, just that it’s not allowed. It doesn’t really matter whether Signal placed the ads or not. They were just using the full reach of Facebook targeting – then were completely transparent with the user about how they got there.
Data privacy is of course an issue, and you should make sure that any data you upload remains as private as possible, making sure that your privacy settings are up to date and that your passwords are strong. However, I think targeted advertising is a good thing, for the customers and for the advertiser. Facebook just needs to be transparent about this, if it wants people to keep adding more information.