Facebook announced yesterday in a post on its Advertiser Hub Page that it plans to start requiring companies to disclose to users who uploaded the contact information that prompted a particular sales pitch. This will enable people to find out how advertisers obtained their data and potentially limit access in the future.

Starting on 27 February, the drop-down button labeled “Why am I seeing this ad?” in feed posts will provide users with a lot more information than it did in the past. It will tell them, for example, the brand that bought the ad, the biographical details that they were targeting, when their contact information was uploaded, whether a brand or its agency or development partners shared their info, and when that access was shared between the partners.

A different arrangement will apply to “on behalf of” agreements. The post says: “However, there will be certain modifications when an agency or FMP establishes an ‘on behalf of’ (OBO) agreement between one of their ad accounts and their client’s business.”

This can help users determine how brands obtained their contact information and possibly enhance their privacy. The move could also help Facebook identify any ad partners that are uploading information without user consent.

Facebook’s data practices under fire

Facebook has taken a lot of flak recently for its reckless use of people’s data for targeted ads, and this is one of several steps they’ve been taking to address it. In June, they debuted a tool that required advertisers to promise they had permission to share a person’s email address or phone number for ad targeting, but no verification process was put in place. The platform also started applying “Paid for by” labels to their political ads in the wake of the American election interference scandal.

Today, Germany’s anti-trust office ruled that Facebook has been abusing its social media monopoly by combining the data it gathers from WhatsApp, Instagram, and third-party websites to create comprehensive user profiles. Now, they will be required to receive explicit consent from German users to collect and combine their data; Facebook plans to appeal the decision.

It’s not clear whether the new custom audience transparency update will be enough to restore people’s faith in Facebook’s privacy practices, but many consider the latest move to be a step in the right direction.

Tobias Matthews

Tobias Matthews


Writer at Fourth Source.