Facebook is making changes to how advertisers can target consumers based on potentially sensitive characteristics, updates that could also affect some benevolent groups that often use personal details like religious and political affinities to generate support for their causes.
The social media giant announced it will also soon allow Facebook users to opt out of receiving ads in sensitive areas like gambling and weight loss if people decide they do not want to be bombarded with messages with those themes.
Facebook has long had a difficult time drawing the line between the positive side of ad targeting, like allowing charitable causes to find sympathetic supporters, versus bad actors who sometimes use those sensitive attributes to discriminate in advertising.
Today's announcement outlining new limits to how advertisers can use personal traits to target users on Facebook came in a blog post from Facebook’s Graham Mudd, VP of ads product marketing. “We want to better match people’s evolving expectations of how advertisers may reach them on our platform and address feedback from civil rights experts, policymakers and other stakeholders,” Mudd said in the announcement, “on the importance of preventing advertisers from abusing the targeting options we make available.”
The plans cover Facebook's ad manager platform, which serves ads to Facebook and Instagram and has other third-party ad placement opportunities depending on how a buyer sets its campaigns.
Starting on Jan. 19 certain “detailed targeting” will be removed from the ad manager platform, “options that relate to topics people may perceive as sensitive, such as options referencing causes, organizations, or public figures that relate to health, race or ethnicity, political affiliation, religion, or sexual orientation,” Mudd said.