Facebook's 'advertising transparency' scheme to be rolled out ahead of Eighth Amendment vote

The pilot scheme will launch in Ireland next week

Facebook's 'advertising transparency' scheme to be rolled out ahead of Eighth Amendment vote

Picture by: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/PA Images

Facebook has announced a pilot scheme is being rolled out for Irish users to deal with concerns over advertising during election and referendum campaigns.

From next week, people will be able to see every ad an organisation is running on the site - even if they are not in your news feed.

It means the feature will be launched in Ireland a month before the referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

Niamh Sweeney, the Head of Public Policy with Facebook Ireland, told an Oireachtas committee this afternoon: "If you're served an ad, or you go to a page, you'll be able to click on it and see all of the ads that that particular advertiser is running at that moment, in your jurisdiction.

"What that is supposed to address is this issue of micro-targeting or so-called 'dark ads' - so I'm being targeted because I'm a woman in my 30s who's from an urban earlier, somebody else is being targeted because they're a male in their 60s and they're from a rural area... and you're trying to target them with different messaging."

She added that the hope is to bring 'greater transparency' to that advertising process.

Facebook had previously said the scheme would initially be tested in Canada, before being rolled out to the US ahead of the country's mid-term elections in November.

"We do not believe we're a victim"

Senior representatives from Facebook also told the committee that they could have done better responding to concerns about user data being harvested by Cambridge Analytica.

The site's Vice President for Global Policy, Joel Kaplan, admitted mistakes were made, explaining: "We do not believe we're a victim here. We believe we have a broader responsibility to the people who use Facebook.

"We want to make right on the mistakes we made with respect to this app, but also go further and give people who use Facebook the confidence that their data is safe."

Meanwhile, the Data Protection Commissioner says there are concerns people are being manipulated through social media in relation to elections and referendums.

Also appearing before the Oireachtas Communications Committee this afternoon, Helen Dixon warned the 'autonomy of individuals is potentially being jeopardised'.

She observed: "Big data analytics involves the practice of analysing these very large data sets and using sophisticated algorithms which are complex mathematical models - to identify patterns and trends, with a view to informing decisions made on or in relation to individuals."