Facebook 'Why Am I Seeing This Ad?' Update Gives More Information About Ads

Facebook and transparency are not the best of friends. But the former wants people to think that it can deliver the latter.

The social media giant has been giving users the kinds of information they need to answer why they're viewing a certain ad, with its 'Why am I seeing this ad?'. With an update, Facebook is adding even more information to the section.

Here for the first time, Facebook is allowing users to see what third-party data brokers and agencies are providing data to Facebook to target personalized ads.

The update comes as Facebook continues to struggle with people's criticisms regarding its privacy practices and how the company uses personal data to display ads.

According to Facebook's Product Manager Sreethu Thulasi in a blog post:

"First, we’ll show people more reasons why they’re seeing an ad on Facebook."

"In the past, 'Why am I seeing this ad?' highlighted one or two of the most relevant reasons, such as demographic information or that you may have visited a website."

"Now, you’ll see more detailed targeting, including the interests or categories that matched you with a specific ad. It will also be clearer where that information came from (e.g. the website you may have visited or Page you may have liked), and we’ll highlight controls you can use to easily adjust your experience."

Facebook said that the update aims to provide additional insights to users who say they are still confused about Facebook’s ad-targeting practices.

“We heard feedback from people that they can still be hard to understand and difficult to navigate,” continued Thulasi, referring to Facebook’s previous answers for those who clicked 'Why am I seeing this ad?'.

Additionally, Facebook is also updating its Ad Preferences to show users more about businesses that upload lists with their information, such as an email address or phone number. Here, users can see a tab with two sections:

  1. Advertisers who uploaded a list with users information and advertised to it. This section includes advertisers that uploaded a list with users information and used that list to run at least one ad in the past seven days.
  2. Businesses who uploaded and shared a list with your information. This section aims to help users understand the third parties and businesses who have uploaded and shared lists with their information. In this section, users will see the business that initially uploaded a list, along with any advertiser who used that list to serve them an ad within the last 90 days.

According to the company, Facebook matches that uploaded information to a person's profile "without revealing your identity to the business, through a hashing process."

This is to ensure that the company doesn't see that information and that a business won't see the contact information of Facebook users.

Facebook is also letting users change which ads they see in the future by tweaking their interests on Facebook or clicking through to the 'What You Can Do' section.

Options for modifying which ads are displayed in the future include blocking all ads from a certain advertiser or minimizing the personal data shared with third-party companies.

However, the process for the settings can be a burden and complex. Users may have navigated to the appropriate page, the details on offer are more thorough. But still, the approach should make Facebook more transparent than ever.