Signal, a privacy-positive messaging platform, has said that Facebook banned a series of ads that it tried to run on Instagram - a claim that Facebook has dismissed. The ads were meant to show how much data Instagram and its parent company Facebook collect from users. In a blog post published Tuesday, Signal said that Facebook banned them from its ad platform for the string of ads that used highly targeted data to "show you the personal data that Facebook collects about you and sells access to."
To highlight Facebook's data collection practices, Signal created super-specific ads that would display some of the data that Facebook collects from its users.
"You got this ad because you're a K-pop-loving chemical engineer. This ad used your location to see you're in Berlin. And you have a new baby. And you just moved. And you're really feeling those pregnancy exercises lately," reads one of the ads, according to screenshots shared by Signal.
However, the messaging platform claims that Facebook banned them from its ad account after it tried to run these ads.
"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 said in its blog post titled 'The Instagram ads Facebook won't show you'.
Facebook has dismissed the claims as a "stunt by Signal".
Alex Kantrowitz, founder of the newsletter Big Technology, shared a response from Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne, who said that Facebook did not shut down Signal's ad account.
"This is a stunt by Signal, who never even tried to actually run these ads - and we didn't shut down their ad account for trying to do so," the Facebook spokesperson said.
Facebook's response: pic.twitter.com/xhPTVfmLBQ— Alex Kantrowitz (@Kantrowitz) May 5, 2021
In response, Signal shared a screenshot which shows an "Ad Account Disabled" message and said, "We absolutely did try to run these. The ads were rejected, and Facebook disabled our ad account. These are real screenshots, as Facebook should know."
Signal's response: https://t.co/FAdZdcpgSA— Alex Kantrowitz (@Kantrowitz) May 5, 2021
Facebook once again countered their claim and said the screenshots were not recent.
"These screenshots are from early March, when the ad account was briefly disabled for a few days due to an unrelated payments issue," Mr Osborne tweeted. "The ads themselves were never rejected as they were never set by Signal to run," he added in a follow-up tweet.
2/2: The ads themselves were never rejected as they were never set by Signal to run. The ad account has been available since early March, and the ads that don't violate our policies could have run since then.— joe osborne (@joeosborne) May 5, 2021
Mr Kantrowitz concluded his Twitter thread by saying he would like to see more conclusive proof from Signal to back up its claims - a sentiment echoed by many others on the microblogging platform.
I'd like to see some more conclusive proof from Signal backing up its claims. Fwiw. pic.twitter.com/kFN6E5TsbZ— Alex Kantrowitz (@Kantrowitz) May 5, 2021
The exchange between Signal and Facebook has divided opinion on Twitter - with some praising Signal for highlighting Facebook's often-controversial data collection methods and others raising doubts about their claims of being banned.
Why do your screenshots only show 1 campaign labeled “test” with 0 results in March?— Bryan Cano ???? (@BryanECano) May 5, 2021
Doesn't seem like they were actual ads with intent to run— unless you took a screenshot of another ad account?
"the ads were rejected" pic.twitter.com/puHuVCksMk— AlbuVaccinate-yo ????????????????????☕???? (@AlbuquerqueTurk) May 5, 2021
This is genius https://t.co/k99A3Do1ic— Ben Basche (@basche42) May 5, 2021
The jury is still out on whether Facebook actually banned Signal's ad account, or whether Signal used the campaign as a PR stunt - as some have said on Twitter - but this is not the first time that Facebook's data collection practices have come under scrutiny.
Facebook hit the headlines after several media reports emerged alleging that a data-mining firm called Cambridge Analytica acquired private data harvested from more than 50 million Facebook users to support Donald Trump's 2016 presidential election campaign.Click for more trending news