Facebook, lately under fire for its lack of transparency in its advertising policies, has gone on the record about what it stands for as a social network and platform.
Rob Goldman, Facebook’s vice president of ad products, stated that his advertising team’s goal is to primarily make connections, going on to add that they strive to “show ads that are as relevant and useful as the other content you see.” In general, the language in the blog post is consumer-facing, meant to assuage fears drummed up by Russian election interference.
The post begins by tying Facebook advertising to the health of the American economy, establishing the somewhat inescapable necessity for businesses to work with the social network to survive.
In a status update promoting the announcement, COO Sheryl Sandberg summed up Facebook’s advertising principles in a few bullet points:
- We build for people first
- We don’t sell your data
- You can control the ads you see
- Advertising should be transparent
- Advertising should be safe and civil; it should not divide or discriminate
- Advertising should empower businesses big and small
- We’re always improving our advertising
The first point, “We build for people first,” simply reflects Facebook’s policy of prioritizing relevant ads over higher-CPM keywords, meaning that companies cannot just throw money at Facebook to make up for improper targeting.
The post also highlights the company’s plans to introduce transparency features permitting users to see all ads paid for by any given Page but does not give any further information on when this feature might be released.
However, a few of these points may be misleading. Primarily, Facebook very much does sell data. The company specifically withholds users’ names, posts, email addresses and phone numbers from advertisers, but everything else, such as liked Pages and interests, are fair game.
Also, although Facebook announced that it would be tightening enforcement of its advertising policies related to hate and discrimination, a recent report by ProPublica found that this may not be the case. Several housing ads specifically excluding ethnic and religious groups were not flagged by Facebook, a possible violation of federal fair housing rules.
Sandberg’s post also urges users to provide Facebook with feedback, and the blog published Monday points to the company’s shift to mobile advertising four years ago as evidence of the company’s willingness to change. The post compiles information from Facebook’s other promises in recent months but provides very little new on its own.
Even the central theme, that the advertising team seeks to build “connections” between users and brands, was a sentiment similarly espoused by Facebook’s CMO Gary Briggs earlier this year.