It won’t shock you to hear that Facebook customizes the ads you see — in some cases, it’s vital. However, the social network’s Australian office appears to have pushed that personalization too far. The Australian has learned (subscription only) through a leak that Facebook was touting its ability to target teens with ads based on their feelings, including when self-esteem is low — say, when they’re feeling “stupid,” “worthless” or like a “failure.” It did promote ego boosts in those moments (such as “body confidence”), but it’s hard to deny the exploitative nature of selling products to teens at their most vulnerable.
Facebook hasn’t said whether or not this ad model has been used outside Australia, but it was quick to apologize when asked by The Australian for comment. The company is investigating the “process failure,” it says, and plans to take “disciplinary and other processes as appropriate.”
This doesn’t mean that Facebook violated the law, either in Australia or elsewhere. The leaked document only talks about aiming ads at teens 14 years old and up, which fits in with Australian regulations. Nonetheless, it’s bound to reinforce beliefs that Facebook still has work to do when it comes to responsible ad targeting. While it’s legal to pitch ads to teens, that doesn’t make it acceptable to take advantage of their weaker moments.
Via: Ars Technica