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Facebook Gives Users Some Control Over How They See Political Ads Ahead of US Elections

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Facebook said on Thursday it was making some changes to its approach to political ads, including allowing users to turn off certain ad-targeting tools, but the updates stop far short of critics’ demands and what rival companies have pledged to do.

The world’s biggest social network has vowed to curb political manipulation of its platform, after failing to counter alleged Russian interference and the misuse of user data by defunct political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica in 2016.

But ahead of the US presidential election in November 2020, Facebook is struggling to quell criticism of its relatively hands-off ads policies. In particular it has come under fire after it exempted politicians’ ads from fact-checking standards applied to other content on its network.

Facebook said that in addition to rolling out a tool enabling individual users to choose to see fewer political and social issue ads on Facebook and its photo-sharing app Instagram, it will also make more ad audience data publicly available.

In contrast, Twitter banned political ads in October, while Alphabet’s Google said it would stop letting advertisers target election ads using data such as public voter records and general political affiliations.

Other online platforms like Spotify, Pinterest, and TikTok have also issued bans.

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In a blog post, Facebook’s director of product management Rob Leathern said the company considered imposing limits like Google’s, but decided against them as internal data indicated most ads run by US presidential candidates are broadly targeted, at audiences larger than 250,000 people.

“We have based (our policies) on the principle that people should be able to hear from those who wish to lead them, warts and all,” Leathern wrote.

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The expanded ad audience data features will be rolled out in the first quarter of this year and Facebook plans to deploy the political ads control starting in the United States early this summer, eventually expanding this preference to more locations.

Custom audiences
Another change will be to allow users to choose to stop seeing ads based on an advertiser’s “Custom Audience” and that will apply to all types of advertising, not only political ads.

The “Custom Audiences” feature lets advertisers upload lists of personal data they maintain, like email addresses and phone numbers. Facebook then matches that information to user accounts and shows the advertiser’s content to those people.

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However, Facebook will not give users a blanket option to turn off the feature, meaning they will have to opt out of seeing ads for each advertiser one by one, a spokesman told Reuters.

The change will also not affect ad targeting via Facebook’s Lookalike Audiences tool, which uses the same uploads of personal data to direct ads at people with similar characteristics to those on the lists, the spokesman said.

Leathern said in the post the company would make new information publicly available about the audience size of political ads in the company’s Ad Library, showing approximately how many people the advertisers aimed to reach.

The changes follow a New York Times report this week of an internal memo by senior Facebook executive Andrew Bosworth, who told employees the company had a duty not to tilt the scales against US President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.

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Bosworth, a close confidant of Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg who subsequently made his post public, wrote that he believed Facebook was responsible for Trump’s election in 2016, but not because of misinformation or Trump’s work with Cambridge Analytica.

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Rather, he said, the Trump campaign used Facebook’s advertising tools most effectively.

© Thomson Reuters 2019

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Updating Special Ad Audiences for housing, employment, and credit advertisers

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On June 21, 2022 we announced an important settlement with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that will change the way we deliver housing ads to people residing in the US. Specifically, we are building into our ads system a method designed to make sure the audience that ends up seeing a housing ad more closely reflects the eligible targeted audience for that ad.

As part of this agreement, we will also be sunsetting Special Ad Audiences, a tool that lets advertisers expand their audiences for ad sets related to housing. We are choosing to sunset this for employment and credit ads as well. In 2019, in addition to eliminating certain targeting options for housing, employment and credit ads, we introduced Special Ad Audiences as an alternative to Lookalike Audiences. But the field of fairness in machine learning is a dynamic and evolving one, and Special Ad Audiences was an early way to address concerns. Now, our focus will move to new approaches to improve fairness, including the method previously announced.

What’s happening: We’re removing the ability to create Special Ad Audiences via Ads Manager beginning on August 25, 2022.

Beginning October 12th, 2022, we will pause any remaining ad sets that contain Special Ad Audiences. These ad sets may be restarted once advertisers have removed any and all Special Ad Audiences from those ad sets. We are providing a two month window between preventing new Special Ad Audiences and pausing existing Special Ad Audiences to enable advertisers the time to adjust budgets and strategies as needed.

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For more details, please visit our Newsroom post.

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Impact to Advertisers using Marketing API on September 13, 2022

For advertisers and partners using the API listed below, the blocking of new Special Ad Audience creation will present a breaking change on all versions. Beginning August 15, 2022, developers can start to implement the code changes, and will have until September 13, 2022, when the non-versioning change occurs and prior values are deprecated. Refer below to the list of impacted endpoints related to this deprecation:

For reading audience:

  • endpoint gr:get:AdAccount/customaudiences
  • field operation_status

For adset creation:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdAccount/adsets
  • field subtype

For adset editing:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdCampaign
  • field subtype

For custom audience creation:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdAccount/customaudiences
  • field subtype

For custom audience editing:

  • endpoint gr:post:CustomAudience

Please refer to the developer documentation for further details to support code implementation.

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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Introducing an Update to the Data Protection Assessment

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Over the coming year, some apps with access to certain types of user data on our platforms will be required to complete the annual Data Protection Assessment. We have made a number of improvements to this process since our launch last year, when we introduced our first iteration of the assessment.

The updated Data Protection Assessment will include a new developer experience that is enhanced through streamlined communications, direct support, and clear status updates. Today, we’re sharing what you can expect from these new updates and how you can best prepare for completing this important privacy requirement if your app is within scope.

If your app is in scope for the Data Protection Assessment, and you’re an app admin, you’ll receive an email and a message in your app’s Alert Inbox when it’s time to complete the annual assessment. You and your team of experts will then have 60 calendar days to complete the assessment. We’ve built a new platform that enhances the user experience of completing the Data Protection Assessment. These updates to the platform are based on learnings over the past year from our partnership with the developer community. When completing the assessment, you can expect:

  • Streamlined communication: All communications and required actions will be through the My Apps page. You’ll be notified of pending communications requiring your response via your Alerts Inbox, email, and notifications in the My Apps page.

    Note: Other programs may still communicate with you through the App Contact Email.

  • Available support: Ability to engage with Meta teams via the Support tool to seek clarification on the questions within the Data Protection Assessment prior to submission and help with any requests for more info, or to resolve violations.

    Note: To access this feature, you will need to add the app and app admins to your Business Manager. Please refer to those links for step-by-step guides.

  • Clear status updates: Easy to understand status and timeline indicators throughout the process in the App Dashboard, App Settings, and My Apps page.
  • Straightforward reviewer follow-ups: Streamlined experience for any follow-ups from our reviewers, all via developers.facebook.com.

We’ve included a brief video that provides a walkthrough of the experience you’ll have with the Data Protection Assessment:

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The Data Protection Assessment elevates the importance of data security and helps gain the trust of the billions of people who use our products and services around the world. That’s why we are committed to providing a seamless experience for our partners as you complete this important privacy requirement.

Here is what you can do now to prepare for the assessment:

  1. Make sure you are reachable: Update your developer or business account contact email and notification settings.
  2. Review the questions in the Data Protection Assessment and engage with your teams on how best to answer these questions. You may have to enlist the help of your legal and information security points of contact to answer some parts of the assessment.
  3. Review Meta Platform Terms and our Developer Policies.

We know that when people choose to share their data, we’re able to work with the developer community to safely deliver rich and relevant experiences that create value for people and businesses. It’s a privilege we share when people grant us access to their data, and it’s imperative that we protect that data in order to maintain and build upon their trust. This is why the Data Protection Assessment focuses on data use, data sharing and data security.

Data privacy is challenging and complex, and we’re dedicated to continuously improving the processes to safeguard user privacy on our platform. Thank you for partnering with us as we continue to build a safer, more sustainable platform.

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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Resources for Completing App Store Data Practice Questionnaires for Apps That Include the Facebook or Audience Network SDK

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Resources for Completing App Store Data Practice Questionnaires for Apps That Include the Facebook or Audience Network SDK

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