Internal documents from Facebook showthat the company should stop positioning itself as a defender of small businesses, as opposed to Apple, which is introducing new privacy features in iOS 14. Managers of the social network in correspondence with each other admit serious shortcomings in the ad targeting capabilities.
In particular, they recognize the fact that half of the time such ads were not shown to their target audience, and that the data underlying the targeting criterion was “completely crap”.
Earlier, the owner of Investor Village, a small business that places financial-related ads on Facebook, filed a complaint a lawsuit against the company. It says that the company decided to buy targeted advertising on Facebook because it hoped to attract “well-off and educated investors”, but “had limited resources”. However, almost 40% of those who saw the investor Village ad either did not have a College degree or did not receive even $250,000 a year. In fact, none of the Facebook users surveyed by the company met all the targeting criteria set for advertising.
The complaint cites Facebook’s documents as an argument, which indicate that the company knew about the lack of effectiveness of its advertising capabilities. A February 2016 email sent by an unnamed Facebook Executive to Andrew Bosworth, a trusted Zuckerberg confidant, reads:: “The accuracy of interest in the US is only 41%, meaning that more than half of the time we serve ads to someone but not the advertiser’s target audience. And internationally, it’s even worse.”
The lawsuit also cites correspondence between unnamed “employees of the Facebook advertising team” who discussed targeting opportunities around June 2016. One of them noted that narrow targeting accounted for “18% of total ad revenue,” or $14.8 million on June 17 alone. In response, the CTO wrote that the behavior of the social network is “almost complete nonsense”, which “misleads the advertiser a little.”
The complaint also mentions unspecified internal messages in which ” Facebook managers described the targeting data as ‘nonsense’ and found its accuracy ‘appalling’.”
Facebook said that these quotes are presented out of context. The company tried to withdraw internal documents obtained by the plaintiff during the judicial investigation, on the grounds that they are “confidential” and could harm the social network if competitors read them. However, the court rejected this argument and accepted all the documents.
Then Facebook began to claim that it never guarantees the full accuracy of targeting.
Meanwhile, the social network itself has started a strong newspaper campaign against Apple, claiming that the new privacy measures in iOS will “stifle” American small businesses, which are already struggling with the economic consequences of the pandemic.
The first who caught the social network in guile was the “electronic frontier Foundation”. He issued a statement saying that Facebook is hiding behind the protection of small business interests, but in fact is making “ridiculous attempts” to distract attention about its own reputation in light of anti-competitive behavior and privacy issues.