In a blog post, Marlinspike, whose real name is Matthew Rosenfeld, said he had taken an Instagram ad account in order to show the degree of visibility that companies like Facebook had into users' lives.
"[Companies like Facebook] collect everything they can from FB, Instagram, and WhatsApp in order to sell visibility into people and their lives," Marlinspike said.
"This isn’t exactly a secret, but the full picture is hazy to most – dimly concealed within complex, opaquely-rendered systems and fine print designed to be scrolled past."
Some other ads that Marlinspike created.
Marlinspike said Facebook’s own tools could divulge what was otherwise unseen. "It’s already possible to catch fragments of these truths in the ads you’re shown; they are glimmers that reflect the world of a surveilling stranger who knows you. We wanted to use those same tools to directly highlight how most technology works."
To this end, he created a multi-variant targeted ad which would show the personal data that Facebook collects and sells access to.
"The ad would simply display some of the information collected about the viewer which the advertising platform uses. Facebook was not into that idea," he explained.
Marlinspike's Instagram account was shut down after he tried to run the ads. All screenshots courtesy Moxie Marlinspike
Facebook was willing to sell visibility into people’s lives, unless it was to tell people about how their data was being used, Marlinspike said.
"Being transparent about how ads use people’s data is apparently enough to get banned; in Facebook’s world, the only acceptable usage is to hide what you’re doing from your audience."