“You are seeing this ad because you are a K-pop-loving chemical engineer. This ad used your location to see that you are in Berlin. And that you have a baby. And that you just moved. And that lately those exercises for pregnant women are coming in handy ”. Coming across a message like this while browsing Instagram and exactly fitting the description can throw anyone off the hook. That is the effect that the instant messaging application Signal was looking for with a campaign it prepared for the aforementioned social network: that users are aware of the level of detail with which Facebook, owner of Instagram or WhatsApp, its direct competitor, knows them.
“We created a multivariate targeted ad designed to show you the personal data about you that Facebook collects and sells,” it reads. in the last blog post from Signal. The idea was that the ads would directly challenge users with real information about themselves obtained through Instagram’s own advertising tool. The same data that advertisers who pay to be on Facebook work with.
The campaign did not get to see the light. As Signal itself announced in a statement on Tuesday, Facebook closed their account. “This is nothing more than a publicity stunt from Signal, which never even tried to launch these ads. We do not close your account for trying, “replied a spokesman for the company that Mark Zuckerberg runs.
Signal fought back on Twitter. “Of course we are trying to launch the campaign. The ads were rejected and Facebook deactivated our account [la herramienta de] advertising. These are real screenshots, as Facebook knows well ”, they tweeted in reference to an image in which the account closure icon appears.
“If Signal had tried to run the ads,” Facebook’s argument continues, “a couple of them would have been rejected because our advertising policy prohibits ads that claim you have a specific medical condition or sexual orientation.” Some of the examples of the campaign that were never included the expressions “LGBTQ adoption”, “drag”, “vegan” or “lactose intolerant” among the keywords that define the alleged profiles.
Data and privacy
Signal is an open source instant messaging application run by a foundation. Facebook is the largest social network in the world and one of the ten largest companies on the planet by market capitalization. Whether it was really a campaign that was going to be launched on Instagram or not, the Signal initiative has achieved its goal: to make noise. Quite an achievement for an app with no options to compete in marketing against the empire of Mark Zuckerberg.
The bottom line of the campaign has to do with the very nature of Signal. Considered a benchmark application in terms of communications privacy, Signal was the first to apply an end-to-end encryption protocol. The messages leave the device already encrypted, so that if a third party intercepts them, they will have no way of reading them, and they are decoded when they reach the recipient. The model was so successful that WhatsApp, Facebook’s instant messaging service, eventually adopted it.
Being managed by a non-profit foundation, Signal offers the guarantee that it has no interest in collecting user data to do business with them. The opposite happens on Facebook: the company has become a giant thanks to processing user data and transforming it into information of interest so that advertisers reach their desired audience. “Being transparent about how ads use people’s data is apparently enough to get banned,” Signal complains about its failed Instagram campaign.
“I think the Signal campaign is terrific. If people received those messages with every ad shown to them, everyone would be much less comfortable with the data economy, “says Carissa Véliz, professor of philosophy and ethics at the University of Oxford and an expert on privacy in the era. digital. “You have to put pressure on Facebook, show it that its business model brings more problems than advantages. The moment he realizes it, he will have to change it ”.
Facebook announced in January this year that WhatsApp, the app messaging service that it bought in 2014, would start sharing the data of its non-EU users with the world’s largest social network. That caused the call of personalities to use Telegram or Signal and a significant increase in downloads of these two applications. The news caused the earthquake that delayed that update until May 15.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.