Signal Shares the Instagram Ads Facebook Doesn't Want You to See

Encrypted messaging app Signal has had a series of Instagram ads blocked from the social media platform, after it attempted to show users how much data the Facebook-owned company collects about them and how it's used to push targeted ads.

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In a blog post, Signal described how it generated the ads to show users why they were seeing them, simply by declaring upfront the information that the advertising platform relies on to perform its targeting.

"We created a multi-variant targeted ad designed to show you the personal data that Facebook collects about you and sells access to," said Signal. "The ad would simply display some of the information collected about the viewer which the advertising platform uses. Facebook was not into that idea."

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The starkly transparent ads used Signal branding and featured the user's professional role, education, interests, hobbies, location, and relationship status, amongst other personal data points pruned from their interaction with the platform. Unsurprisingly, the ads never made it to Instagram users' feeds and Signal's ad account for the platform was summarily disabled.

"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."

In recent months, Signal has enjoyed a surge in account sign-ups following a bungled privacy policy update by rival service WhatsApp, which caused a user exodus from the Facebook-owned platform.

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The privacy-focused chat app has also been promoted by prominent Signal users like Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Edward Snowden, which has only added to mainstream interest in the service.

Top Rated Comments

wanha Avatar
6 days ago at 02:52 am

What's the news here...????

The Washington post bans an add from The New York Times in their papers because they attack them in that add....isn't that obvious.

I hate Facebook/Insta but this is just silly to blame them.
The news here is that if there is a scammy ad, Facebook usually takes a week or more to do anything about it as it rakes in the dough all the while saying that "we are reviewing the incident" or "moderation is an imperfect science".

This case shows that Facebook have the ability and the willingness to act immediately to take an ad down when their own self-interest is at stake.
Score: 41 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Bug-Creator Avatar
6 days ago at 01:47 am

The Washington post bans an add from The New York Times in their papers because they attack them in that add....isn't that obvious.

I hate Facebook/Insta but this is just silly to blame them.
Huh?

I'm pretty sure Signal knew that these ads would either never show or be pulled fast, but it was still a perfect troll and does give people a hint into what personalized data FB sells to advertisers (and worse).
Score: 34 Votes (Like | Disagree)
thisisnotmyname Avatar
6 days ago at 01:50 am
That was a genius campaign, would have been amazing if it got through.
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Ravi_MR Avatar
6 days ago at 01:35 am
Too bad they were never aired! I moved to Signal a while back and its been great.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Horselover Fat Avatar
6 days ago at 01:56 am
Great idea. This would have been one of the very few examples that's really worth an award in this day and age of digital advertising.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
haruhiko Avatar
6 days ago at 01:57 am

I was talking with friend of mine about his new job in one of the top popular beer company, and he send me a picture of 0% beer - on Signal.
Next day I saw a few ads of that beer on Facebook.

Worth to add - I haven't google or anything like this about the beer or that company.

Ye, privacy :)
Did you ever suspect it’s Instagram? It strongly pushes users to enable microphone access in Instagram Stories. I enabled microphone access once thinking that this is the only way to use “Instagram Stories” (later I found that I can still post photos/videos in Photo Library without surrendering microphone access). Then, I talked about some products with my wife a few days later, and all my internet are populated with that product’s ads.

I’m quite sure it’s Instagram since I don’t give microphone access to most apps.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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