Thursday, September 27, 2018

What Facebook Does For Advertisers

Kashmir Hill (Hacker News):

Facebook is not upfront about this practice. In fact, when I asked its PR team last year whether it was using shadow contact information for ads, they denied it. Luckily for those of us obsessed with the uncannily accurate nature of ads on Facebook platforms, a group of academic researchers decided to do a deep dive into how Facebook custom audiences work to find out how users’ phone numbers and email addresses get sucked into the advertising ecosystem.


They found that when a user gives Facebook a phone number for two-factor authentication or in order to receive alerts about new log-ins to a user’s account, that phone number became targetable by an advertiser within a couple of weeks. So users who want their accounts to be more secure are forced to make a privacy trade-off and allow advertisers to more easily find them on the social network.

Parmy Olson:

Facebook’s plans remain unclear. When Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, was asked by U.S. lawmakers in early September if WhatsApp still used end-to-end encryption, she avoided a straight yes or no, saying, “We are strong believers in encryption.” A WhatsApp spokesperson confirmed that WhatsApp would begin placing ads in its Status feature next year, but added that even as more businesses start chatting to people on the platform, “messages will remain end-to-end encrypted. There are no plans to change that.”

For his part, Acton had proposed monetizing WhatsApp through a metered-user model, charging, say, a tenth of a penny after a certain large number of free messages were used up. “You build it once, it runs everywhere in every country,” Acton says. “You don’t need a sophisticated sales force. It’s a very simple business.”


Within 18 months, a new WhatsApp terms of service linked the accounts and made Acton look like a liar. “I think everyone was gambling because they thought that the EU might have forgotten because enough time had passed.” No such luck: Facebook wound up paying a $122 million fine for giving “incorrect or misleading information” to the EU—a cost of doing business, as the deal got done and such linking continues today (though not yet in Europe).

Comments RSS · Twitter

Leave a Comment