Facebook policy briefing for regulators

Posted by March 20, 2015
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I’ve just come from an ad tech policy and privacy briefing at Facebook, with Brian Boland and Sarah Epps discussing the organisation’s current advertising and ad tech offerings – including Atlas, Audience Network, and LiveRail – and how they fit into their ads vision going forward. The session ended with a Q&A session where regulators, think tanks and trade bodies in this space were able to ask questions touching on the policy issues in this area.

A quick précis of the discussion, starting with a FB ad tech introduction from Brian Boland:

– Facebook’s advertising approach is built on relevancy (audience) plus creatives driving business growth. The latest figures: 1.39 BN users/month; 890m/day; 745m/day on mobile. 2m active advertisers globally per month, primarily small businesses.

– Facebook ads are 92% accurate by age & gender (Nielsen stats), compared to 32% on general web.

– Native formats allow advertisers to offer any of: a link; app; photo; video.

– Audience Network (FB offering for mobile apps off FB) allows advertisers to show links or offer apps for users to install. Their current offering is completed by recent acquisitions of LiveRail (publisher side) and Atlas (advertiser side). [Check out this TechCrunch article from Dec 2014 for more info].

Sarah Epps then picked up the briefing from a privacy perspective:

– Ad Preferences (avail in territories incl UK since Nov 2014) allows FB users to manage (delete or add to) their personal segmentation data. All behavioural targeted adverts on FB allow users to click to find out ‘Why?’ they are being served an ad i.e. the information FB holds that its drawing on to target them with that ad. Of those who click, one-third go on to view their preferences, and half of those go on to remove or add preferences.

– This opt-out of behavioural targeted adverts is honoured everywhere FB is used, across all devices and off FB i.e. Liverail and Atlas.

– Where users are deleting preferences, it is usually the broad categories they remove e.g. ‘shopping’ as opposed to the specific e.g. ‘fly fishing’.

During the Q&A Brian and Sarah touched on FB’s conversion measurement tools and how they are moving beyond views, likes and shares to quantify digital input into the 90% of sales that still happen in the physical world, as well as measuring across browsers and multiple devices (e.g. attributing the 32% of sales that occur on desktop after a click on mobile).

Brain explained about hashed (i.e. scrambled and therefore privacy-protected) matches between retailer loyalty card/email data and FB’s user email addresses, allowing FB to tell a retailer their advert has been seen by someone who has gone on to buy. Crucially for this morning’s audience, they were at pains to point out that FB never discloses personal data i.e. advertisers will never know ‘who’ saw their advert, or see users ad preferences.

Other questions the Q&A touched on:

– Protection of children. Answer: no accounts for under 13s and requirement on advertisers to comply with laws when making (mandatory) age-targeting choices.

– Geo-location targeting vs privacy concerns. Answer: advertisers can select by a radius only, where users have chosen to share location data with FB.

– Sharing of data outside of FB i.e. business to business. Answer: this doesn’t happen. Would be contrary to FB’s efforts to be ‘good for people’ and also contrary to FB’s own business interests. This prompted an aside about the Yahoo! and Apple privacy policies being less transparent and accessible to users.

Overall, Facebook emphasised the effort they are putting into building (and trying to measure) trust and sentiment and the value underpinning their approach to privacy and consumer trust – to be ‘good for people’. They stated their pride in the level of control they’ve put into users hands and emphasised that they actively want people to be exercising this control.

Opting-out of behavioral targeted adverts obviously results in a less meaningful experience (i.e. you still get adverts, just not necessarily relevant ones) and the insights shared this morning paint Facebook as hopeful that users are coming on board with this approach.

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