Facebook ad delivery systems continue to harvest teen data
A group of 44 advocacy organisations has now written to Meta’s CEO and Founder, Mark Zuckerberg, urging that all data collection practises on minor users be discontinued.
Facebook and Instagram ad delivery networks continue to capture teen data for the sole goal of giving them surveillance ads. Instagram recently announced that it will soon launch two new measures to protect teenagers from harmful content, following the testimony of whistleblower Frances Haugen before the US Congress that Instagram can have a severe impact on teens’ mental health.
On July 27, Facebook announced changes to its advertising rules for children, claiming to have heard from youth advocates about these concerns. Facebook stated that “we agree with them, which is why we’re taking a more precautionary approach in how advertisers can reach young people”. However, researchers from the activist organisation’s Global Action Plan, Reset Australia, and Fairplay discovered that Facebook and Instagram continue to deploy tracking software known as conversion application programming interfaces (APIs). According to the study, APIs collect and compile minors’ web surfing data, keeping track of the websites they visit and their actions.
“Facebook can collect data from other browser tabs and pages that children open, and harvest information like which buttons they click on, which terms they search or products they purchase or put in their basket (‘conversions’). There is no reason to store this sort of conversion data, except to fuel the ad delivery system,” said the report.
The researchers were able to review the data obtained by the two networks from their minor users by generating three fake accounts for minors using these APIs. A group of 44 advocacy organisations has now written to Meta’s CEO and Founder, Mark Zuckerberg, urging that all data collection practises on minor users be discontinued.
The research team stated that Facebook must provide more transparency about the impacts of its recent rule changes in advertising to teens, and clarify if this is an improvement for children. “It appears that young people`s personal data is still being harvested to deliver them a stream of even more personalised advertising with all of the associated risks,” the research team noted.