Signal Tries to Expose Facebook’s Garbage Ad Collecting Practices, Gets Banned

We all know that Facebook collects user data for targeted advertising, but just how specific is that data? A new Instagram ad campaign by Signal shows people the uncomfortably-precise personal data that Facebook collects and sells. At least, it would, but Instagram shut the project down before it went live.


Advertisers on Facebook and Instagram can choose between several data points to target potential customers. These data points aren’t just reflections of your location or the pages you follow on social media, they’re highly specific and can include information on your hygiene, sexuality, education, relationship history, employment status, and more.

If it hadn’t been shut down, Signal’s “transparent ad campaign” would tell Instagram users the exact data points used to serve them ads. In a blog post, Signal shared some examples of these ads, which are full of invasive lines like “you have a new baby and just moved,” and “this ad thinks you do drag.”



Facebook stopped the uncomfortable ad campaign before it went live and banned Signal from advertising on its platforms. Signal chalks this up to a moral failing, stating that Facebook is happy to collect and sell personal data “unless it’s to tell people about how their data is being used.” So long as Facebook keeps its ads business invisible, it can avoid controversy and user backlash.

Of course, Signal is a business looking for more users. The company knows that its encrypted messaging app, a popular alternative to the Facebook-owned WhatsApp, will appeal to people who are interested in this Instagram ads stunt. So I guess I’ll do the dirty work and link to Signal below. You can also learn more about Signal’s “transparent” ad campaign on the company’s blog.

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