Facebook Ads Become Ever-So-Slightly More Transparent


Given the way that Facebook seems to change things up every other week, you would be forgiven for never knowing where you stand on privacy issues. Facebook collects masses of data about you, but very rarely does it tell you what it does with it.  However, this week, the world’s favorite social media site has announced a forthcoming update that should give users a little bit more of an idea of how their data is being used by it advertisers.

The development is a positive one, sort of. Facebook has announced that after months of complaints by advertisers and ad agencies, it’ll begin using the Digital Advertising Alliance’s small AdChoices logo (above right) to identify those ads which have targeted users based on their browsing history, IP address, ZIP code and other data.

However, it would appear that Facebook was actually dead against this update, and has only done so after coming up with a way to make its targeted ads ‘less obvious’ than they are on other sites. The new icon will only be displayed when users ‘interact’ with the ads, which means hovering the mouse cursor over the ad, which makes a small grey “X” appear in the right-hand corner. Move the cursor over this “X” and only then will the AdChoices icon show up.

Or at least it will when they introduce the new transparency feature next month.

According to the AdAge website, Facebook only reluctantly agreed to make these changes after months of pressure from advertisers. The Council of Better Business Bureaus, which backed the advertisers, has now said that it is satisfied with the changes.

Erin Egan, Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer, told VentureBeat that the social media site works hard to build transparency into its product offerings, including its advertisements.

“Today we’re proud to provide an additional way for marketers to communicate important privacy information to users through Facebook Exchange. It’s been a pleasure to work with the CBBB, which shares those underlying commitments,” stated Egan.

Of course, Egan’s statement entirely misses the point that very few users are likely to notice the new icon given the roundabout way in which it’s displayed, but at least ‘something’ is better than nothing – the move is a step in the right direction, if nothing else.

Those who are still concerned might be better off visiting the Digital Advertising Agency’s devoted website Youradchoices.com, which explains how ad agencies go about collecting data using cookies, and how they use that data to target you with relevant ads. However, even this resource is limited, as it fails to explain exactly what kind of data they collect – which includes things such as your social media identities, previous websites you have visited, your search history, videos you’ve seen on YouTube, your social media friends, products you’ve shopped for on sites like eBay, and more.

But at least we know when they are doing it, thanks to that little blue icon.