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.

signal instagram ads3
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."

signal instagram ads1
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.

signal instagram ads2
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
21 months ago

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
21 months ago

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
21 months ago
That was a genius campaign, would have been amazing if it got through.
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Ravi_MR Avatar
21 months ago
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
21 months ago
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
21 months ago

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)

Related Stories

Facebook Feature

Facebook Reports Record Ad Revenue for Q2 2021, Despite Apple's iOS Privacy Changes

Thursday July 29, 2021 2:31 am PDT by
Undeterred by Apple's recent anti-tracking privacy changes, Facebook continues to rake in billions in advertising revenue, as evidenced by its latest fiscal 2021 second quarter results announced Wednesday. On the company's Q2 earnings call, the social network revealed it had accumulated $28 billion in ad revenue, representing a 56% year-on-year increase. That saw Facebook more than double...
Facebook Feature

Report: Facebook to Change Its Name Next Week to Better Reflect Company's 'Metaverse'

Wednesday October 20, 2021 3:41 am PDT by
Facebook is reportedly planning to change its name to better reflect Mark Zuckerberg's goal of creating a "metaverse," reports The Verge, claiming the change could come as soon as next week. From the report: The coming name change, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to talk about at the company's annual Connect conference on October 28th, but could unveil sooner, is meant to signal the tech...
tim cook mark zuckerberg

Apple's Privacy Rules to Blame for Facebook's Lower Than Expected Quarterly Growth, Says Zuckerberg

Tuesday October 26, 2021 3:46 am PDT by
Apple's privacy rules are "negatively affecting" Facebook, and its business, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg claimed during its most recent earnings call. As a quick refresher, starting with iOS 14.5 and all newer versions of iOS and iPadOS, Apple requires that apps ask for users' permission to track them across other apps and websites. Under the App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework, the...
Facebook Feature

FTC Accuses Facebook of Using 'Buy-or-Bury' Techniques to Stifle Competition and 'Hone a Surveillance-Based Advertising Model'

Thursday August 19, 2021 4:29 pm PDT by
The United States Federal Trade Commission today reinforced its antitrust case against Facebook by providing more detail on how the company either crushed or bought out its rivals in an attempt to get rid of competition. The updated filing is longer than the original complaint and it offers additional evidence in favor of the FTC's argument that Facebook is a monopolist, plus it again asks...
facebook meta

Facebook Wants to Open 'Welcoming' Retail Stores Where People Can Experience the 'Metaverse'

Friday November 5, 2021 4:17 am PDT by
Facebook, now rebranded to Meta, is looking to open physical retail stores where customers will be able to experience the wide range of products it has to offer, such as Oculus headsets, in a "welcoming" and "judgment-free" experience, according to a new report from The New York Times. The report says that Facebook executives began floating the idea of a physical retail store last year, but...
Google Logo Feature Slack

Google Launching Privacy Sandbox to Limit Ad Tracking on Android, Calls 'Blunt Approaches' Like Apple's 'Ineffective'

Wednesday February 16, 2022 7:50 am PST by
Google has announced plans to strengthen user privacy on Android with a new initiative that will put an end to cross-app tracking on Android over the next two years, making it more difficult for advertisers to track users across other apps. In a blog post, Google announced a multi-year project named "Privacy Sandbox" that introduces "more private advertising solutions" for mobile apps. The...
General Insta Facebook Messenger Feature Blue

Facebook Delays Plans to Use End-to-End Encryption As Default for Messenger and Instagram Messages Until at Least 2023

Monday November 22, 2021 6:32 am PST by
Facebook, now rebranded to "Meta," is delaying plans to use end-to-end encryption for Messenger and Instagram messages until at least 2023, a year later than the previous deadline promised by the social media behemoth. Writing in The Telegraph, Meta's head of global safety, Antigone Davis, said that the company is pushing back its deadline to roll out end-to-end encryption as the default...
facebook reels

TikTok-Inspired 'Reels' Videos Are Coming to Facebook in the U.S. on iOS

Wednesday September 29, 2021 8:18 am PDT by
Facebook today announced that it's bringing Reels, its short-form videos that were previously only available on the Instagram platform, to its main Facebook app on iOS and Android in the United States. While the two share the same name and style, Reels content on Instagram and Facebook will differ. Facebook says it is testing the ability for Instagram Reels content creators to share their...

Popular Stories

applefifthavenue

Man Robbed After Buying 300 iPhones From Apple Fifth Avenue

Tuesday November 29, 2022 11:54 am PST by
An unnamed 27-year-old man who purchased 300 iPhones from Apple Fifth Avenue on Monday morning was robbed shortly after leaving the store, according to 1010Wins Radio in New York. He was carrying 300 iPhone 13s in three bags and walking to his car at 1:45 a.m. when another car pulled up next to him. Two men jumped out and demanded that he hand over the bags. Not wanting to hand over 300...
iOS 16

Apple Releases iOS 16.1.2 With Carrier Improvements and Crash Detection Optimizations

Wednesday November 30, 2022 10:09 am PST by
Apple today released iOS 16.1.2, another minor bug fix update that comes one week after the release of iOS 16.1.1 and three weeks after the launch of iOS 16.1, an update that added support for iCloud Shared Photo Library, Matter, Live Activities, and more. The iOS 16.1.2 update can be downloaded on eligible iPhones over-the-air by going to Settings > General > Software Update. According...
app store awards 2021

Apple Announces 2022 App Store Award Winners, Highlighting Best Apps of the Year

Tuesday November 29, 2022 3:10 am PST by
Apple today announced its 2022 App Store Award winners, highlighting the 16 best apps and games selected by Apple's global App Store editorial team. The top apps were chosen by Apple for their quality, innovative technology, creative design, positive cultural impact, and ability to deliver "exceptional experiences." Apple CEO Tim Cook said: This year's App Store Award winners reimagined...
14 vs 16 inch mbp m2 pro and max feature 1

'M2 Max' Geekbench Scores Leak Online, Revealing Rumored Specs and Performance

Wednesday November 30, 2022 2:39 am PST by
Geekbench scores allegedly for the upcoming "M2 Max" chip have surfaced online, offering a closer look at the performance levels and specific details of the forthcoming Apple silicon processor. The Geekbench results, first spotted on Twitter, are for a Mac configuration of with the M2 Max chip, a 12-core CPU, and 96GB of memory. The Mac listed has an identifier "Mac14,6," which could be...
eufy camera

Anker's Eufy Cameras Caught Uploading Content to the Cloud Without User Consent [Updated]

Tuesday November 29, 2022 1:01 pm PST by
Anker's popular Eufy-branded security cameras appear to be sending some data to the cloud, even when cloud storage is disabled and local only storage settings are turned on. The information comes from security consultant Paul Moore, who last week published a video outlining the issue. According to Moore, he purchased a Eufy Doorbell Dual, which was meant to be a device that stored video...
Apple Park View

Elon Musk Meets With Apple CEO Tim Cook Amid Claims of Twitter App Store Dispute [Updated]

Wednesday November 30, 2022 12:43 pm PST by
Twitter CEO Elon Musk today met with Apple CEO Tim Cook at the Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California, according to a tweet shared by Musk this afternoon. Musk thanked Cook for taking him around Apple's headquarters, with no mention of what the two might have discussed. The meeting comes just after Musk on Monday claimed that Apple has "mostly stopped" offering ads on Twitter, and that...
iphone 11 tesla cybertruck close up

Elon Musk Pledges to Build iPhone Rival If Apple Ousts Twitter

Tuesday November 29, 2022 2:48 am PST by
Elon Musk has pledged to offer an "alternative phone" if Apple and Google remove Twitter from their app stores, adding to long-standing rumors about an iPhone rival from Tesla. Modified iPhone 11 Pro in the style of the Tesla Cybertruck, by Caviar. Musk's remark came after being asked about the potential scenario of Twitter being removed from app stores, which could conceivably happen if the...
Cyber Monday Deals Feature 2022

Best Cyber Monday Apple Deals Still Available for AirPods, Apple TV, iPad, and More

Monday November 28, 2022 5:24 am PST by
The Black Friday and Cyber Monday holiday shopping rush is drawing to a close, but there are still some good deals to be had out there. For Apple products, many of the deals you've seen since last week are still available, though some have expired. So for anyone who missed out on Black Friday deals, there's still an opportunity to get some of the year's best prices on many Apple devices. Note: ...
apple music replay 2022 highlight reel cropped

Apple Music Replay 2022 Revamped With 'Highlight Reel' [Updated]

Tuesday November 29, 2022 4:02 am PST by
Apple today rolled out an updated Apple Music Replay experience for 2022, showcasing a new "highlight reel" feature. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. The overhauled experience, which started to be noticed by Apple Music subcribers on Twitter earlier today, puts the new highlight reel feature at the forefront of the Replay webpage, which users are encouraged to...
iPhone 14 Pro Rear Camera

iPhone 15 to Use 'State-of-the-Art' Image Sensor From Sony for Better Low-Light Performance

Monday November 28, 2022 11:00 am PST by
Apple's upcoming iPhone 15 models will be equipped with Sony's newest "state of the art" image sensors, according to a report from Nikkei. Compared to standard sensors, Sony's image sensor doubles the saturation signal in each pixel, allowing it to capture more light to cut down on underexposure and overexposure. Nikkei says that it is able to better photograph a person's face even with...