Signal Accuses Facebook of Banning its Honest Ad Campaign

Can honesty in your ad campaign get you banned from Facebook? Signal is saying yes and has provided screenshots to prove it.

It’s no secret that Facebook is tracking your every move while you browse its platform. In fact, there have been countless stories detailing just how much information on you the network collects. One such story is the Cambridge Analytica scandal where data collected was used to sway multiple elections. Another example is the controversy surrounding Facebook Beacon which tracked your activities on other sites even when you sign out of your Facebook account. In this day and age, using Facebook generally means you forgo all reasonable expectations of privacy.

Still, if you needed a fresh reminder of just how invasive Facebook’s data collection can be, Signal helped offer that up on a silver platter. Reports surfacing suggest that Signal ran what is being described as the most honest ad campaign ever. The ad campaign simply shows text describing what career you have, your marital status, location, and your interests. The campaign obviously took advantage of the various tracking systems Facebook employs and simply shows what it found on you after.

Of course, the question is, why do this? Well, Signal offers services that encrypts your communications. The idea is to show you, first hand, how much tracking technology can pick up. After that, it encourages you to better protect your information using their services. The campaign itself is quite clever and is quite effective on getting people to think about what information they are leaving out there on the web.

Well, as it turns out, Facebook wasn’t exactly liking this campaign and immediately banned the campaign. From Gizmodo:

Based on this kind of minute data, Signal was able to create some super-targeted ads that were branded with the exact targeting specs that Signal used. If an ad was targeted towards K-pop fans, the ad said so. If the ad was targeted towards a single person, the ad said so. And if the ad was targeted towards London-based divorcees with degrees in art history, the ad said so.

Apparently, Facebook wasn’t a fan of this sort of transparency into its system. While the company hasn’t yet responded to Gizmodo’s request for comment, Signal’s blog post says that the ad account used to run these ads was shut down before these ads could reach their target audiences. Personally, I think that’s a shame—I’d have loved to see an ad that showed what Instagram really thinks of me.

Since the story was published, the feud between Facebook and Signal apparently escalated. Facebook said in a statement, which was posted to Twitter, that they did not suspend the campaign and it is little more than a publicity stunt by Signal.

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. If Signal had tried to run the ads, a couple of them would have been rejected because our advertising policies prohibit ads that assert that you have a specific medical condition or sexual orientation, as Signal should know. But of course, running the ads was never their goal — it was about getting publicity.

Signal, in turn, responded with their own comments:

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.

Oh snap, indeed.

Let’s assume that this was actually all a publicity stunt. You have to admit, that was quite a good one.

If there’s anything good to come from this, it’s that maybe this feud will get people to think about how their personal information is stored and transmitted in the first place. If not, then maybe it’ll get people to think about how Facebook can so easily shut down competing services. After all, Signal is a competitor to Facebook’s Whatsapp. Either way, if Signal hoped to troll Facebook, that trolling was pretty successful here.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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