Facebook bans Signal's attempt to run transparent Instagram ad campaign

Signal wanted to run an honest ad campaign and Facebook didn't like it, so the ads were banned.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor
Image: Signal

Encrypted instant messaging app Signal has tried to run a series of Instagram ads to show the amount of data the social media platform and its parent company Facebook collect about users and how it uses the data to push targeted ads. But that attempt was quickly shut down by Facebook, Signal said in a blog post.

Signal explained how it created some targeted ads featuring its own branding to illustrate that if an ad was being used to target a K-pop fan, it would say so. Or if the user was a teacher, it would also say so.

"We created a multi-variant targeted ad designed to show you the personal data that Facebook collects about you and sells access to," Signal said.

"The ad would simply display some of the information collected about the viewer which the advertising platform uses. Facebook was not into that idea.

"Facebook is more than willing to sell visibility into people's lives, unless it's to tell people about how their data is being used. Being transparent about how ads use people's data is apparently enough to get banned; in Facebook's world, the only acceptable usage is to hide what you're doing from your audience."

Signal has recently gained a flood of new users after Facebook-owned WhatsApp announced new terms of service that would allow it to share user profile data with Facebook in some circumstances. The new terms are due to take effect on May 15.

Signal became the fastest growing app in Q1 2021, according to mobile ad analytics App Annie.

Last month, Signal exposed it was possible to gain arbitrary code execution through Cellebrite tools. The tools are used to pull data out of phones the user has in their possession.

Signal CEO Moxie Marlinspike said that Cellebrite contains "many opportunities for exploitation" and he thought Cellebrite should have been more careful when creating their forensic tools.

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