CAN’s Harriet Kingaby on Meta’s Ad Opt Out, TikTok Harm Concerns, and Publisher Data

On this week's episode of The MadTech Podcast, Harriet Kingaby, co-founder of the Conscious Advertising Network, joins ExchangeWire senior editor Mat Broughton and CEO Rachel Smith to discuss Meta offering an ads opt out, TikTok being accused of harming young users, the AOP's open letter, and more.

Meta offers ad opt out in Europe

Is this move a win for user privacy? What implications could it have for advertisers?

Meta has introduced a new function that will allow users to opt out of receiving highly personalised ads on its platforms. Users of Facebook and Instagram will be able to submit a form objecting to the use of specific data (such as the content they previously engaged with) for advertising. Meta will assess each application, and those whose requests are accepted will receive targeted ads based on broader categories (such as general location and demographic).

The change will only apply to users in Europe, where Meta received a €390m (~£342.6m) fine from the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) for making consent for behavioural targeting part of the platforms’ terms of service. Meta continues to contest the decision, but has reportedly said that it anticipates it will make more changes off the back of the DPC ruling.

TikTok accused of harming young users

What impact could this ruling have on TikTok’s future in the UK? What role can the advertising industry play in minimising the potential harms of social media?

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined TikTok £12.7m for collecting and processing the data of up to 1.4 million children under the age of thirteen without consent. The body concluded that the ByteDance-owned company had failed to stop under-13s from signing up, in violation of its own terms and conditions, and did not remove such users from its platform.

The penalty comes amid concerns that young people are being exposed to harmful content posted on the app, such as videos relating to self-harm and mental health disinformation. Research from the Centre for Combating Digital Hate suggests that the popular app’s algorithm can push videos related to eating disorders and other disturbing content onto young users within minutes after they sign up. TikTok maintains that it has updated its practices since the ICO probe and that it does not permit the promotion of harmful content, and has worked to remove such videos. The company has faced greater scrutiny in the UK over its links to China, with the app having been banned from government devices.

AOP calls out data scraping for contextual advertising

What impact do you think data scraping and such practices have on the health of the online advertising ecosystem?

The Association of Online Publishers (AOP) has called out ‘unscrupulous’ tech vendors for illicitly using publishers’ content for contextual advertising. In an open letter published last month, the industry body denounces the practice as intellectual property theft, and asserts that it affects the entire online advertising ecosystem.

The AOP argues that data scraping not only deprives publishers of their right to monetise their owned content, but also raises questions around data quality and responsibility for advertisers. The body partnered with the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) to issue an updated Brand Safety Certification with new wording that establishes “clearer definitions around publisher data applications.” In the letter, the AOP also called on the wider industry to help end the practice by scrutinising verification partners and by participating in cross-industry consultations on the issue.