The Cambridge Analytica data breach back in 2015 continues to haunt Meta and its billionaire leader Mark Zuckerberg -- for good reason.
District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, who followed up on Monday with a second lawsuit against Zuckerberg, called it “the largest consumer privacy scandal in the nation’s history.”
For those who don’t remember -- perhaps you’ve been sidetracked by the other countless lawsuits filed against the tech giant, or the leaked Facebook Papers, or maybe the company’s complete rebrand late last year -- the scandal Racine is referencing involved a data breach that allowed political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to target Facebook users during the 2016 presidential election.
Racine’s dramatic statement is rooted in the fact that Cambridge Analytica worked on then-presidential candidate Trump’s campaign (who won), and that a whopping 87 million Americans’ personal information was leaked.
Racine is now going after Zuckerberg -- who admitted responsibility for mishandling the scandal, but never apologized -- and the role he played personally in all of it.
“This unprecedented security breach exposed tens of millions of Americans’ personal information, and Mr. Zuckerberg’s policies enabled a multiyear effort to mislead users about the extent of Facebook’s wrongful conduct,” Racine said in a statement reported by TheWashington Post. “This lawsuit is not only warranted, but necessary, and sends a message that corporate leaders, including CEOs, will be held accountable for their actions.”
With all of this in mind, it’s important now to look at the changes Meta is making in lieu of its past wrongdoings -- especially for advertisers.
This past January, Meta removed a plethora of specific ad targeting options that could be used to discriminate against certain audiences. Advertisers were no longer able to reference causes, organizations, or public figures relating to health, race, or ethnicity, political affiliation, religion, or sexual orientation.
Most recently, Meta has announced that it will be adding new information to its Ad Library -- a public resource that allows people to see any ad being run on any Facebook Page in the recent past -- via more transparency on ad-targeting choices for social-issue, electoral, and political ads.
These new transparency updates will become accessible at the end of the month for researchers through the Facebook Open Research and Transparency (FORT) environment, then will go public in July.
According to Meta, the updates will include “data on the total number of social issue, electoral and political ads a Page ran using each type of targeting (such as location, demographics and interests) and the percentage of social issue, electoral and political ad spend used to target those options.”
Meta also added: “We are committed to providing meaningful transparency, while also protecting people’s privacy.”
Even though a statement like this may make anyone familiar with Meta’s endless, damaging fumbles want to gag, it is at least a step in the right direction. Knowing how advertisers are using more sensitive targeting options will help researchers better detect misuse and/or report concerns.
Aside from Meta’s popular social media platforms becoming potentially safer places for positioning advertisements, these changes may also provide the power of transparency to advertisers.
How are other advertisers attracting specific audiences? What can we learn from their targeting practices?
With these new updates, the answers to these questions will likely become more attainable.