Report criticizes Apple, Google, TikTok, and other tech giants for lack of sufficient ad transparency

Report criticizes Apple, Google, TikTok, and other tech giants for lack of sufficient ad transparenc
The 'free internet' lives off of ads. But, of course, spying on your info to get you a nice relatable ad breaks at least some privacy boundaries. So, people started demanding ad transparency (iPhones even got a feature called App Tracking Transparency). However, now it seems the ad transparency we got isn't... that transparent.

New report indicates tech giants are struggling in ad transparency

Apple Insider reports that every tech giant has failed to provide crucial ad transparency tools to its users. This could bring disinformation and even manipulation. The report comes from Mozilla and CheckFirst, a Finland-based research company.

The report focuses on tech companies like Apple, Google, TikTok, and X, and ad transparency. All in all, all these companies could do more to disclose to the user why they are seeing an ad, and who is behind the ad.

The research was carried out between December 2023 and January 2024 and evaluated the transparency tools of each company using over 20 parameters (that included functionality, accuracy, and data accessibility).

X was found to be one of the worst companies in the researched ones when it comes to ad transparency. Data was only accessible via a slow-to-load CSV file and didn't have a user-friendly interface. On top of that, it had some info like targeting parameters missing.

Apple, LinkedIn, and TikTok were moderately better rated. But still, didn't fit the criteria completely. Apple got praise for the accessibility of its API but was criticized that the data was only available in English.

The study also gives recommendations for best transparency practices:
  • Transparency API should provide access to paid political ads and issue-based ads without restrictions
  • more detailed ad information - content, targeting criteria, impressions, engagements, payment details, and microtargeting
  • Transparency API should support advanced research and analysis (trend analysis, content downloads, and search functionalities)
  • Data accessibility: historical data should be available for at least 10 years, and advertisements should be available within 24 hours of publication
  • Access: the general public should have access to the API and the data

The report also offers recommendations for regulators as well, requesting strict guidelines for branded, sponsored, or paid influencer content.

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