Interest-Based Ad Model and Facebook Privacy Updates

Facebook announced that it is creating an independent board for reviewing appeals of Facebook’s content policy. The board is intended to be transparent about it’s decisions and can overrule Facebook decisions. Facebook is also hiring the lawyers of it’s top privacy critics. All this is happening as the FTC is considering new rules on Internet privacy and the Supreme Court has agreed to adjudicate whether social media companies can regulate speech. Facebook’s interest based advertising model may be caught in the middle.

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Facebook announced a series of meetings around the world to receive input into the creation of this new board.

According to the draft charter:

“we have come to believe that …people should be able to request an appeal of our content decisions to an independent body.

To do that, we are creating an external board.

…The board will be able to reverse Facebook’s decisions about whether to allow or remove certain posts on the platform. Facebook will accept and implement the board’s decisions.”

The board members will be experts in various fields:

“The board will be made of experts with experience in content, privacy, free expression, human rights, journalism, civil rights, safety and other relevant disciplines.”

Facebook Hires Privacy Critics

In a privacy related move, Facebook hired Nate Cardozo, a Senior Information Security Counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a free speech organization. Nate Cardozo has played a role in advocating for better privacy policies at Facebook from his position at the free speech and privacy advocacy group, Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Facebook also hired Robyn Greene, the senior policy counsel and government affairs lead of the Open Technology Group which is dedicated to consumer Internet privacy and security.

FTC Judgment for Violating Privacy Agreement

All of this comes as the FTC is reported to issue a multi-million dollar fine to punish Facebook for violating an agreement to improve it’s security policies.

Privacy is Related to Advertising

The whole reason privacy is an issue is because Facebook monetizes the personal data of its members. Restricting Facebook’s access to this information would transform it’s advertising platform to a less lucrative geo-targeting (targeting by location) and banner advertising model. It may be that protecting this advertising model is behind Facebook’s scramble to beef up it’s privacy protections. Better to self-regulate than be regulated from without.

The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) submitted comments to the Federal Trade Commission in December 2018 to urge moderation in the FTC’s hearing on competition and consumer protection. The IAB seeks to guide the FTC’s decision on how to balance the needs of consumer privacy versus “economic development” and “innovation” by the advertising community.

The IAB suggests that “data-drive and ad-supported ecosystem benefits consumers and fuels economic growth.”

It also states that current laws should be updated rather than follow European privacy trends (GDPR) as well as privacy laws from the states, possibly a reference to the California Consumer Privacy Act that is set to take effect in 2020

Interest Based Advertising

Many people are unaware of how their data is being used. There is an assumption of privacy that causes concern when it’s understood how their data is being used.

Interest based (and behavioral) targeting is under scrutiny because of privacy protection laws in Europe and one in California that is due to come into effect in 2020.

If the Federal Trade Commission issues restrictive guidelines, this could mean a change to the advertising ecosystem that Facebook and Google depend upon. This may explain why Facebook is hiring the top privacy lawyers of their fiercest critics and creating a non-judicial way to adjudicate freedom of speech matters.