KEY POINTS

  • Signal used Instagram’s own ad tech tools to show how ad targeting works
  • The collected information is gathered in a pool of data for later access
  • Facebook claimed Signal’s move was a PR stunt

Signal said its ad account was blocked by Instagram after it exposed how Facebook-owned social media platforms surreptitiously gathered user data including age, location and relationship status to help their ad targeting business.

The encrypted messaging app confirmed that it created a multi-variant targeted ad design to expose the massive amount of personal data that Instagram and Facebook “collect and sell access to.”

“They collect everything they can from FB, Instagram, and WhatsApp in order to sell visibility into people and their lives,” Signal wrote in blog post titled 'The Instagram Ads Facebook Wont Show You.'

Signal ran ads on Instagram to show how Facebook and Instagram gathered data from users as they scrolled through the feeds. The privacy positive app did this using Instagram’s own ad tech tools, MacRumors reported.

The ad campaign showed that any exposed data are collected on the same data bank because the two social media apps share a common ad platform.

The collected data such as basic details, age, location, granular points, relationship status, and even points of interest can later be used to target the users using either Facebook or Instagram, Gizmodo reported.

Signal showed how the social media giant actually builds technology for the users’ data and not for the users. Signal described the ad targeting campaign as a system opaquely rendered and designed in such a way that browsing users would scroll past them. The post further said the activity is intolerable once translated into real-world analogs.

Signal showed examples of how the Facebook and Instagram ads would look like if they were open for ad targeting. The WhatsApp rival claimed that Instagram later booted and blocked their ad accounts.

Facebook Wednesday denied Signal’s allegations of ad account blocking. The company said it did not suspend the Signal ad account from Instagram.

 

“But of course, running the ads was never their goal — it was about getting publicity,” Facebook said in a Twitter post.

Signal responded with screenshots of the disabled ad account from Instagram.