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Signal says Facebook doesn’t want to run honest ads

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  • 3 min read

Signal says Facebook shut down their ad account after trying to run Instagram ads, which gave the viewers a rundown of the data Facebook collects and the parameters available for advertisers on the platform to target them.

The privacy-oriented messaging app, which went up the charts after Facebook’s privacy policy update was made transparent last year, say that they created ads to show the people the data Facebook collects and sells about them on the advertising platform — the social network’s main stream of revenue. However, Facebook shut down their advertisement account when they tried running these ads.

Signal says Facebook doesn't want to run honest ads

“Facebook is more than willing to sell visibility into people’s lives unless it’s to tell people about how their data is being used. Being transparent about how ads use people’s data is apparently enough to get banned; in Facebook’s world, the only acceptable usage is to hide what you’re doing from your audience,” said Jun Harada, head of growth and communication at Signal.

Facebook says that Signal won’t have been able to run these ads as their policies prohibit running ads that “assert specific medical condition or sexual orientation”. However, it certainly is possible for any advertiser on Facebook — we tried — to target the users for their advertisement.

Signal says Facebook doesn't want to run honest ads
Candid.Technology tried targetting users on Facebook Ads using the keywords Signal used, and it worked

Facebook’s response

Facebook has denied Signal’s claims and has shifted the blame for misleading the people.

Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne said, “This is a stunt by Signal, who never even tried to actually run these ads, and we didn’t shut down their ad account for trying to do so. If Signal had tried to run the ads, a couple of them would have been rejected because our advertising policies prohibit ads that assert that you have a specific medical condition or sexual orientation, as Signal should know. But of course, running the ads was never their goal, it was about getting publicity.”

Unless users know how they’re being targeted, Facebook doesn’t care how advertisers target them.

PR play by Signal?

Last month, Signal’s CEO, Moxie Marlinspike, reported vulnerabilities in Cellebrite’s surveillance software that could be exploited by embedding specially formatted files into any app installed on the device that will be subsequently scanned using the software.

They’ve begun their month by exposing Facebook’s ad targeting tool.

While this will get Signal some publicity, it will also amplify information related to Facebook’s data collection practices, most of which Facebook doesn’t want its users to know.

To summarise, unless the advertiser tells the user which parameters were used to target them for the ad, it works just fine for Facebook.

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Writes news mostly and edits almost everything at Candid.Technology. He loves taking trips on his bikes or chugging beers as Manchester United battle rivals. Contact Prayank via email: