Instant Analysis: Facebook Requires Third-Party Advertising and Offer Providers to Agree to New Terms

Companies that provide advertising for Facebook applications, including offer and ad networks, are now required by Facebook to sign a new, specialized terms of service. The overall goal is to make sure that Facebook has direct connections to the ad companies — each of these companies must provide a full set of contact information, and electronically register that they agree to the new terms.

Facebook has been trying to police companies on the platform for years; it has regularly introduced new policies around advertising, specifically going after some ad networks that were inappropriately using Facebook user info, or tricking users with scams.

But reading between the lines, the new terms are quite specific, and suggest ways that certain companies have continued to behave poorly. The changes look like a win for users and for ethical third parties. Here’s a quick look:

1. The ad provider agrees to abide by the content standards in the Facebook Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, Platform Policies and Advertising Guidelines (collectively “The Facebook Policies”) when providing monetization services to developers on Facebook Platform.

These terms have all been in place for months, and have already applied to ad providers. Facebook is just reiterating them here.

2. The ad provider agrees to strictly comply with the prohibitions on developers sharing data with monetization providers and ad networks and other limitations on data collection, storage, and usage set forth in the Facebook Policies, and agrees to promote compliance with these policies by the developers and applications it works with.

The online ad industry has historically relied on massive behind-the-scenes exchanges of user data in order to target ads more effectively. Obviously, it must be quite tempting for any online ad company to do the same with Facebook user data.

3. The ad provider agrees to provide to Facebook the names, email addresses, and business addresses of all operators and employees of the ad provider and any other related information requested by Facebook for the purpose of maintaining a direct relationship with the ad provider. The ad provider also agrees to share with Facebook the contact information, implementation specifics and payment details, for each developer or application on Facebook for which the ad provider provides services.

Facebook has previously put the onus on developers to maintain quality. This clause forces more transparency in the ecosystem, and also provides Facebook with a very clear view of how and when money flows through the system.

4. If the ad provider owns or operates an application on Facebook Platform, the ad provider may not make customer support contingent upon using such an application or require a user to share information with the application, and will not use any data it receives through operation of the application to tailor content (such as serving advertisements through an ad network). Failure to abide by this term will result in an immediate ban from operating on Facebook Platform. The ad provider agrees to give Facebook audit rights to confirm compliance with this term.

This clause sounds very tailored to the few companies that run both ad networks and apps on Facebook –if so, those developers can’t make users share data with them to get support, and can’t share data gained through app users with their own internal ad network.

5. The ad provider agrees to take steps necessary to ensure Facebook may review all content (including advertisements) served on Facebook Platform using the ad provider’s services, including sending a feed of all content from all geo-locations. The ad provider will disclose any efforts it makes to tailor different advertisements to different audiences to ensure that those efforts do not lead to reduced visibility by Facebook. The ad provider will make user complaints available to Facebook. Any IP blocking of Facebook employees or any other related efforts to hide content will result in an immediate ban from operating on Facebook Platform.

Like number 3, the clause forces more transparency. The last line about IP addressess targets what we have previously observed to be a common practice among some developers and ad networks.

6. The ad provider will include in all integrations into Facebook Platform canvas applications a clear and conspicuous method for a user to make a complaint to the ad provider about a specific advertisement in the application.

Many ad companies have been able to operate nearly invisibly to users — when people have taken offers, for example, and discovered they were scammed, they either complained to the company that ran the ad through the offer provider or to the developer. This move makes ad providers directly accountable.

7. The ad provider agrees to immediately respond to all requests from Facebook and remedy any violations.

Otherwise, as Facebook says repeatedly throughout the document, the provider risks an immediate ban.