Carlos Tíscar

3 months ago · 1 min. reading time · visibility ~10 ·

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The Instagram ads Facebook won't show you

You got this ad because you're a newlywed pilates instructor and you're cartoon crazy. This ad used your location to see you're in La Jolla. You're into parenting blogs and thinking about LGBTQ adoption.
Source: signal.org

Originally posted on the blog of Signal.org

Companies like Facebook aren’t building technology for you, they’re building technology for your data. They collect everything they can from FB, Instagram, and WhatsApp in order to sell visibility into people and their lives.

This isn’t exactly a secret, but the full picture is hazy to most – dimly concealed within complex, opaquely-rendered systems and fine print designed to be scrolled past. The way most of the internet works today would be considered intolerable if translated into comprehensible real world analogs, but it endures because it is invisible.

However, Facebook’s own tools have the potential to divulge what is otherwise unseen. It’s already possible to catch fragments of these truths in the ads you’re shown; they are glimmers that reflect the world of a surveilling stranger who knows you. We wanted to use those same tools to directly highlight how most technology works. We wanted to buy some Instagram ads.

Screenshots of sample ads

Access denied

We created a multi-variant targeted ad designed to show you the personal data that Facebook collects about you and sells access to. The ad would simply display some of the information collected about the viewer which the advertising platform uses. Facebook was not into that idea.

Ad account disabled. This ad account, its ads and some of its advertising assets are disabled. You can't use it to run ads.

Facebook is more than willing to sell visibility into people’s lives, unless it’s to tell people about how their data is being used. Being transparent about how ads use people’s data is apparently enough to get banned; in Facebook’s world, the only acceptable usage is to hide what you’re doing from your audience.

So, here are some examples of the targeted ads that you’ll never see on Instagram. Yours would have been so you.

Screenshots of more sample ads
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