Meta to Stop Allowing Advertisers to Target Users for “Sensitive” Categories

Published · Nov 14, 2021

Meta announced that it will prevent advertisers from targeting users based on sensitive information. The company (formerly Facebook) is trying to tidy up its image and increase privacy protections on its platforms.

Meta’s “Detailed Targeting” feature allows advertisers to display ads to very narrow groups of people. This is known as “microtargeting.” Studies show just how precise it can be. So much so that some deem it “nanotargeting,” as it narrows down to individuals too.

While the company won’t remove this feature, advertisers will no longer be able to target users based on sensitive information. This includes health, sexual orientation, religious practices, political affiliations, and social causes broadly.

Meta cites concerns raised by civil rights groups, lawmakers, and stakeholders as informing the move. The restriction will apply to all of Meta’s platforms—Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and Facebook Audience Network. WhatsApp doesn’t have advertising yet, but if it does, the restriction will apply there too.

Earlier this year, the company banned advertising to those under the age of 18 on Instagram.

Lawmakers, privacy advocates, and civil rights groups have been criticizing the company for several reasons. These center around privacy—from basic violations to at-risk groups put in danger by FB’s practices.

Back and Forth Over Privacy

Another step Facebook took was to declare it would no longer use facial recognition. Meta then announced that this would be restricted to the Facebook platform, which cut any applause short.

Those that are extremely security-cautious often use VPNs to escape the tools advertisers and others use to track them. People also try to remove their personal information from the internet.

The hope is that Meta’s move will give users greater control over their personal data and its usage. Currently, the measures are compromises, but it at least seems like Meta is taking input seriously.

The new restrictions will come into effect in January 2022.

Garan van Rensburg
Garan van Rensburg

Garan is a writer interested in how tech reshapes the environment, and how the environment reshapes tech. You'll usually find him inoculating against future shock and arguing with bots.