Meta clarifies its use of AI in ad-matching with a redesigned transparency tool

The tool is rolling out to Facebook users, and coming to Instagram soon.


Starting today, Meta is rolling out a new version of its “Why am I seeing this ad?” tool. The company says the redesigned interface is meant to provide users with more information about how their activities on Facebook and beyond inform the machine learning models that power its ad-matching software. If you’re unfamiliar with the tool, you can access it by clicking or tapping the three dots icon next to an ad on Facebook or Instagram.

Once you have access to the updated tool, you’ll see a summary of the actions on Meta’s platforms and other websites that may have informed the company’s machine-learning models. For instance, the page may note that you’re seeing an ad for a dress or suit because you interacted with style content on Facebook. Users will also see new examples and illustrations that attempt to explain how Meta’s machine learning algorithms work to deliver targeted ads. At the same time, the company says it has made it easier to access its Ads Preferences. You’ll see a link to those settings from more pages accessible through the “Why am I seeing this ad?” tool.

A screenshot of the

“We are committed to using machine learning models responsibly. Being transparent about how we use machine learning is essential because it ensures that people are aware that this technology is a part of our ads system and that they know the types of information it is using,” Meta said in a blog post published Tuesday. “By stepping up our transparency around how our machine learning models work to deliver ads, we aim to help people feel more secure and increase our accountability.”

The company notes it worked with “external privacy experts and policy stakeholders” to collect input on how it could be more transparent about its ads system. Meta doesn’t say as much, but the changes likely represent an effort to ensure the company is compliant with the European Union’s Digital Services Act when it becomes law in 2024. The legislation has several provisions that apply directly to Meta, including one that mandates more transparency around how recommendation systems work. The law will also ban ads that target individuals based on their religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity or political affiliation.

More broadly, the changes come after Apple’s ad-tracking changes in iOS 14 significantly hurt Meta’s bottom line. One early report after iOS 14.5 went live estimated only four percent of iPhone users in the US opted into app tracking. Since then, Meta has seen revenue growth shrink significantly. More recently, in combination with its virtual and augmented reality spending, Meta saw its first-ever revenue decline in the second quarter of 2022.

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