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Meta Platforms is announcing today some changes it made to its consumer-facing ad-transparency feature known as “Why am I seeing this ad”?

In a blog post written by Meta’s Global Director of Ads and Monetization Privacy, Pedro Pavón, the company provided further details about the scope and reach of this upgrade. Moving forward, the parent company of Instagram will disclose the reasons why a certain ad is being displayed including information about why its machine learning software has selected the adverts.

The details will be summarized in a list of topics that may include the actions that the user has taken that has resulted in such recommendations such as liking a Facebook page or searching for certain type of business. According to Meta Platforms (META), these changes are being introduced in response to concerns brought up by policymakers in regards to the company’s data tracking practices.

“These new features are the latest step in our continuous evolution of “Why am I seeing this ad?” We will continue to improve our ads transparency offerings and search for new ways to provide people with better understanding of how we use data and technology to show them ads”, Pavón commented.

Does Meta Listen to Your Private Conversations?

Users have argued for years now that Meta seems to be listening or reading their private conversations as the recommendations made by its algorithm are often too close to home. In some cases, users who have started to practice a certain sport and, without posting or engaging with any related content online, have suddenly started to see ads for equipment or clothing for that specific discipline.

Meta has always denied these rumors and it is now explaining that these highly tailored recommendations are made by their machine learning model based on the user’s interactions with content in and outside the Meta ecosystem.

Also read: Meta Platforms Could Be Preparing Another Round of Layoffs

For those unfamiliar with how Meta tracks users’ behavior outside of its platform, the company created a tool called the Facebook Pixel that is used by external websites and applications to collect data from their visitors that can be later used for their advertising campaigns.

For example, website you have visited could have installed a specific pixel for those who add things to their shopping cart. If you do not complete your purchase, or even if you do, you are part of an audience that has shown interest in the website’s products.

The company that operates the website could target you with ads that encourage you to complete your purchase, enroll for a customer loyalty program, or offer discounts for other products. The “Why am I seeing this as?” tool can be accessed by clicking on the three dots located in the upper right corner of any ad displayed on Facebook.

Data Privacy Scandals Have Cost Facebook a Lot of Money in the Past

Users are becoming increasingly aware of how much data some companies collect from them every day and are starting to make intentional decisions to protect their privacy. In response to these growing concerns, Apple (AAPL) incorporated a new tool to its iOS operating system called App Tracking Transparency (ATT) that allows consumers opt out from being tracked by some apps including those owned by Meta Platforms.

The company headed by Mark Zuckerberg along with other social media platforms like Twitter and Snap warned investors shortly after Apple incorporate this tool that their revenues will be hurt by it. In the specific case of Meta, Zuckerberg said that the company could lose as much as $10 billion in ad revenue per year due to the rollout of ATT.

Meanwhile, Meta has faced multiple lawsuits concerning its data-sharing practices including the Cambridge Analytics scandal, where the company was accused of illegally sharing users’ data collected by Facebook without their consent.

In December 2022, Meta settled a class-action lawsuit by paying $750 million for the incident involving Cambridge on top of a record $5 billion fine paid to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2019 over the same issue.

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