Facebook is coming under increasing scrutiny for its impact on teens.
Sarah Tew / CNET
Facebook is still collecting data from children and adolescents, despite changes to the way advertisers can reach young people earlier this year, according to a report by stakeholders Reset Australia, Fairplay and Global Action Plan released late Monday.
The social network, renamed Meta this year, announced in July that advertisers will no longer be able to target ads to people under the age of 18 based on their interests or activities on other apps and websites. The changes, made in response to concerns from youth advocates, meant advertisers were only allowed to target teenagers based on their age, gender, and location.
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In a letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, 46 stakeholders, including Reset Australia, Amnesty International USA and FairPlay, accuse the social media company of misleading the public and lawmakers about how much it restricts advertising to young people.
“While Facebook says that it will no longer allow advertisers to target young people, Facebook itself seems to continue to target young people, only now with the power of AI,” the letter said.
Advocacy groups cited a report describing an experiment in which Reset Australia researchers Elena Yi-Ching Ho and Rys Farthing, with the help of journalist Matthias Eberl, created three accounts – one at age 13 and two at age 16. Year olds. The researchers said they found through their experiment that Facebook’s ad serving system is still collecting data from children and teenagers.
The researchers describe this AI-powered system as “an extremely powerful algorithm that can predict advertisements that any user can interact with”. According to the report, Facebook can still collect data from browser tabs and pages that kids open, information such as which buttons they click, terms they searched, and products they bought or added to their shopping cart.
Meta spokesman Joe Osborne said the company hadn’t seen the report but said the social network “doesn’t use data from our advertisers ‘and partners’ websites and apps to personalize ads for anyone under the age of 18”.
“The reason this information appears in our transparency tools is because teenagers visit websites or apps that use our business tools. We want to be transparent about the data we receive, even if it is not used to personalize ads, ”he said.
The groups are calling on Facebook to make the impact of its ad targeting changes more transparent and to end “surveillance marketing” for children and teens.
The social media giant came under scrutiny for its impact on teenagers after former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen-turned-whistleblower leaked thousands of pages of internal documents to the US Securities and Exchange Commission and Congress. The Wall Street Journal published a number of stories, based in part on Facebook’s internal research, including an article on how Facebook knew it was “toxic” to teenage girls and worsened the body image of some young people. Facebook said the research was mischaracterized, noting that Instagram also connected teenagers with their friends and family.
Advocacy groups say the collection of data through AI for advertising to teenagers is “particularly worrying” as a teen with an eating disorder or with mental health problems may see weight loss ads.