Facebook To Become More Transparent About Its Retargeted Ads

February 5, 2013 0

Los Angeles – Last year, Facebook rolled out ads that used your Web surfing history to target you. But now, the popular social networking outfit Facebook has finally agreed to be more transparent about, well, the obvious: You are being tracked so advertisers can better aim at you, and you can opt out if you make the effort. The announcement came Monday as part of the company’s agreement with the Council of Better Business Bureau.

Soon, the social media leader is going to start displaying the little blue triangular “AdChoices” icon on some of the ads where it will let users know when they are being “retargeted” – the common Web practice of serving ads to surfers based on the sites they have already visited.

The small “AdChoices” icon on ads across the web, developed by a coalition of advertisers and marketers specifically intended to provide enhanced notice of behavioral targeting and allow users a way to opt-out – with one big caveat.

An advertisement promoting the “AdChoices” logo… (Credit: Digital Advertising Alliance)

If you have a keen sight, you may have seen the triangle on lots of other Web sites, including those run by Yahoo and Google. Now, rather than appearing directly on FBX display ads, the logo does not appear until a user mouses over the gray “x” displayed above the ads shown on Facebook’s right rail, which has led some to criticize the company for embracing it “in their own flavor.”

As a matter of fact, the social media giant has always had an opt-out option for these ads, which come from the Facebook Exchange program, but it is not always obvious to users. Besides, the move is progress for the industry’s most pervasive self-regulatory ad privacy program. Now when customers opt out, the AdChoice icon will show up as well.

“We have always given our users the ability to provide feedback on and control the ads they see on Facebook, by hiding, reporting, or clicking through to learn more about why particular ads are being served,” Director of Product Marketing Brian Boland said in a statement. “This is no different for ads served through the Facebook Exchange, where users can also opt out of seeing ads from our FBX partners. Giving advertisers the ability to implement the AdChoices icon provides another option, another mechanism of control.”

On the other hand, Facebook has hinted that its users are accustomed to ad related information appearing in this format. Currently, the “About this ad” option shown in FBX ads link to opt-out pages provided by the DSP partner that enabled the ad.

Apparently though, implementing the icon, which brands and agencies use for big online display campaigns, could be seen as another step toward Facebook’s third-party ad network. Some advertisers would not buy behavioral campaigns across the web without it.

However, whether the implementation satisfies the original mission of the Digital Advertising Alliance program is up to debate. Although this is meant to make this type of advertising more transparent, users would not see the icon unless they try to opt out of the ad.

“At Facebook, we work hard to build transparency and control into each of our products, including our advertising offerings,” the company said in an e-mailed statement attributable to its chief privacy officer, Erin Egan.

Admittedly, advertising is the bread-and-butter of all Web services, including Facebook. Faced with pressure to gin up profits for its public investors, Facebook has in recent months refined its aimed advertising efforts. The company earned $5 billion in advertising revenue last year.

Nevertheless, the online ad industry wants a system of self-regulation rather than by government directive.