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Personal data: Facebook censors a campaign paid for by Signal

Facebook is not one to let up when it comes to exposing how its users’ data can be used for advertising purposes on its own platforms.

An encrypted messaging service that has made the protection of its users’ data a real leitmotiv, Signal explains that it came up with an advertising campaign whose objective was to draw attention to the way Facebook exploits its members’ personal information.

For example, Signal planned to run personalized Instagram ads that read, “You’re seeing this ad because you’re a teacher, but mostly because your name is Leo (and you’re single). This ad used your geolocation to see that you are currently in Moscow. You like comedy sketches and this ad thinks you are a flirt.

Another variation: “You see this ad because you are a chemical engineer and you love K-Pop. This ad sees that you are in Berlin. You recently had a baby and you just moved.”

Each piece of information used to personalize the text of these ads had to be highlighted, so people could better realize what kind of data Facebook has about them.

“In the Facebook world, the only acceptable thing is to hide what you’re doing to your users.”

“Facebook’s tools have the potential to disclose what is otherwise invisible. It’s already possible to capture bits and pieces of these truths in the ads that are shown to you. These are pieces of information that reflect the fact that an opaque system is watching and knowing you. We wanted to use these same tools to directly highlight how most of these technologies work,” summarizes Signal, which explains that it bought advertising space on Instagram to broadcast this campaign and open the eyes of users of Facebook’s photographic social network. Yes, but here’s the thing, Mark Zuckerberg’s firm didn’t agree.

“Facebook is always willing to sell visibility into people’s lives, unless it’s to inform them how their data is actually being used. Being transparent about how ads use people’s data is apparently enough to get banned. In the world of Facebook, the only acceptable thing is to hide what you’re doing to your users,” finally accuses Signal, which was unable to broadcast the said campaign.

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