Media

Facebook ads will start letting you know — sort of — when they’re targeting you

AdChoice iconYou see that little blue triangle to the right? That’s the Digital Advertising Alliance’s “AdChoices” logo. It’s meant to identify advertisements that companies have targeted at you based on your browser history, ZIP code, IP address, or other data that they’ve collected.

Now, after months of complaining by ad agencies and advertisers, Facebook will start using this icon on its own ads and on ads that it serves through its new FBX ad exchange, the industry magazine AdAge reports.

Well, sort of. To see the new icon on Facebook-delivered ads, you first need to mouse over the ad until you see a little grey X in the upper right-hand corner. Then mouse over that X. If it’s a targeted ad, Facebook will start showing the AdChoices icon.

Or, it will later this quarter, once it updates its FBX code.

It’s not clear if this reluctant disclosure meets the self-imposed requirements that the ad industry has set for the AdChoices disclosure program, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Facebook said it would make the change in response to pressure from an advertising industry trade organization, affiliated with the Council of Better Business Bureaus. In response, the CBBB said it was satisfied that Facebook had done enough.

“At Facebook, we work hard to build transparency and control into each of our products, including our advertising offerings,” Facebook’s chief privacy officer Erin Egan said in a statement provided to VentureBeat this evening. “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.”

I have never seen the AdChoices icon in my life, although the DAA has a helpful website devoted to the topic, filled with information about how the ad industry collects data about you in cookies and then uses that data to deliver ads that you’ll find more relevant, interesting, and (they hope) clickable. “Interest-based advertising doesn’t depend on information that may be personally identifiable to you, such as your e-mail address, your phone number, photographs, etc.,” the site says. Also, it helps those lonely banner ads find their way to the right person: You.

What it doesn’t detail is that the data collected by advertisers could include a wealth of other information, such as your Facebook and Twitter identities, who your friends are on those social networks, what other websites you’ve visited, which products you’ve looked at on e-commerce sites, what videos you’ve watched on YouTube, and more. In all, there are more than 630 different technologies that advertisers can use to track you.

At least there’s that little icon to let you know they’re doing it.

Apparently, Facebook and Amazon have both dragged their heels on integrating Ad Choices disclosures. Now that Facebook’s getting on the bandwagon, the ad industry can breathe a little easier — and hope that Do Not Track does not come to pass.

Top image: Digital Advertising Alliance


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