At a time when data privacy has become a heated topic for the policy makers the world over, Facebook has said that it fundamentally disagrees with the underlying assumption that one cannot provide free, ad-supported services in a way that respects privacy and believes that personalised ads and privacy can coexist.
Some people believe that services that rely on personalised ads are inherently harmful — collecting more data than they need to provide value to people.
According to Facebook, this criticism is influencing policy proposals to limit personalized ads by restricting business-to-business data sharing and the use of decades-old web technologies, like cookies.
“The criticism is also informing changes that large platforms are making: Apple’s new iOS 14 policy is actually focused mainly on the use and sharing of data for personalised ads,” Erin Egan, VP and Chief Privacy Officer, Public Policy, said in a blog post on Friday.
“We believe it is possible to have privacy and a thriving, free, ad-supported Internet. We continue to believe personalised ads and privacy can coexist,” he stressed.
His remarks were first shared last month during a virtual discussion hosted by The Atlantic as part of The Atlantic Ideas Festival.
According to Egan, personalisation also made it easier to show ads without disrupting the user experience.
“The rise of personalized advertising has brought its own controversies, of course. Many of those have focused on privacy and data use, which is the area I cover at Facebook. And, as you know, the past few years have seen other concerns emerge, especially around particular kinds of ads, like political ads,” he said.
Facebook believes that personalised advertising provides the best experience for people and the best value for businesses — particularly small businesses, which make up the vast majority of Facebook’s nine million active advertisers across its services.
“The benefits for people are real. Personalized ads help people access services, discover new products, and receive deals from the brands they care about,” Egan said.
The social network has built tools like ‘Off-Facebook Activity’ that lets people see a summary of the information other apps and websites send to Facebook and gives them the option to disconnect it from their account.
According to Steve Satterfield, Director of Public Policy at Facebook, it’s concerning that some of the most significant restrictions on personalised advertising aren’t coming from policymakers or regulators but from private companies that control app stores and operating systems.
“There’s no democratic process around these changes, no debate or consultation with affected stakeholders. And, given the stakes here, I think we should be concerned about that. This is why Facebook supports comprehensive privacy legislation”, Satterfield said.