Meta, the new name of the parent company responsible for Facebook and Instagram, wants to be less creepy. A post on Meta for Business says that the company has blocked advertisers from using specific ad targeting options. These options allow you to see ads based upon your engagement in sensitive areas such as race, ethnicity, political views, sexual orientation, and health.
Graham Mudd (Meta's vice president of marketing and ads), writes that experts have raised concerns that targeting options such as these could lead to negative experiences for underrepresented groups.
Meta stresses that targeting options are not based on your personal characteristics. They are based on what advertisers believe you might be interested. However, it is possible to be dangerous to target your audience with detailed targeting. Predatory ads may feel discriminatory and reinforce addictions. They can also negatively influence behavior and cause mental distress.
"Targeting options such as these could lead to negative experiences."
Meta plans to hit the "delete” key on many of its sensitive targeting options. However, this is after several previous instances where Facebook had to remove problematic categories. Advertisers could previously target ads against anti-Semitic groups and pseudoscience. Companies could also target housing, job and credit ads using "multicultural affinity", which could exclude certain races. Facebook stopped allowing third party data to be used for targeting ads in 2018 after the Cambridge Analytica scandal. This was because companies that sold information such as your purchase history were no longer allowed to use it.
This was not an easy decision. Because of their potential to generate positive social change, some of our advertising partners expressed concern about these targeting options being removed. This change will have a negative impact on some companies and organizations, as we are well aware. (3/4) https://t.co/RpQ6124CKQ -- Roy Austin, Jr. (@RAustin_Jr) November 9, 2021
This recent change may have to do with mental health. However, if you look at the larger picture, Meta is likely to be preparing for the EU's attempts to create regulations banning tracking-based advertising. Meta's global advertisement system cannot effectively filter out certain areas so it will need to disable specific targeting groups around the globe.
The total revenue from advertising for Facebook in the third quarter 2021 was $28.2billion. This may be why it was so difficult to make the decision, as the post notes. This change will take effect on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and Messenger starting January 19, 2022. This won't stop Meta targeting you based upon your gender, age, and location. However, it might stop you being targeted based solely on your affinity for a subgroup.