Facebook accused of continued ad-targeting for underage users

Menlo Park, California - The Facebook/Meta controversy train has reached its next stop, with new accusations that the tech giant is still targeting underage users with ads.

Facebook is scrutinizing your every move, might as well scrutinize it back.
Facebook is scrutinizing your every move, might as well scrutinize it back.  © IMAGO / Hans Lucas

A research effort led by activist and human rights groups Fairplay, Global Action Plan, and Reset Australia claims to have found out how much data Facebook is still mining from underage accounts.

In their report, the groups accuse Facebook of misleading the public about how young users are targeted by ads.

The researchers used newly-opened underage accounts to show how much information Facebook is still taking from users. They found that, although the platform stopped advertisers from actively targeting users, Facebook still uses algorithms to throw ads at teens based on their browsing activity.

At the center of the claim are Facebook Pixel and the app SPK, software which the report says is "used exclusively to gather information for advertising purposes."

It turns out that by using tracking software, "[...]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')."

The authors argue this is a clear-cut case of advertising: "There is no reason to store this sort of conversion data, except to fuel the ad delivery system."

Aside from its shiny new rebrand as Meta, Facebook has been making various tweaks in response to a seemingly never-ending storm of scandals. Since the start of the month, its facial recognition system has been shut down and ads will no longer be delivered on the basis of users' political, religious, or sexual identity.

In a response to The Guardian, a Meta spokesperson denied Facebook was using the data from its two tracking tools to target ads at minors.

Cover photo: IMAGO / Hans Lucas

More on Tech: