Snapchat has announced a new set of measures to comply with the EU’s upcoming Digital Services Act (DSA), including the capacity to opt out of algorithmic personalization in-stream, and new ad campaign insights, increasing transparency around audience targeting.
Snap becomes the latest social platform to announce the optional removal of personalization, in alignment with the DSA, though unlike Meta and TikTok, Snap’s in-app experience is less defined by algorithms, as there’s no main feed, as such.
As explained by Snapchat:
“There are two parts of Snapchat where we show public content that could reach a large audience - the Discover section of the Stories tab, and the Spotlight tab. The content shown in these sections is personalized to the viewer, ensuring that people have an experience that is relevant for them. As part of our DSA response, all Snapchatters in the EU will now have the ability to better understand why content is being shown to them, as well as the capacity to opt out of a personalized Discover and Spotlight content experience.”
So you’ll be turning off recommendations based on your engagement history, which will probably lessen the in-app experience, but the idea is that this will give users more control over how their data is used. And if they choose not to have their experiences defined by systematic recommendations, that’s in their hands.
But that data will still be tracked by Snapchat, as per its user agreement. You’ll just get less relevant recommendations. Again, for feed-based apps, this is a bigger point of contention, due to concerns that algorithms can significantly influence your experience. On Snap, that’s less of a factor, in a general sense, so it’s not likely to have much positive effect.
The same is true for Facebook and Instagram. Algorithms do improve user engagement, and enhance the in-app experience, whether users think they like them or not. As evidenced by the various algorithm control options already available, switching them off doesn’t really make things better, and the most significant risk here is that the apps themselves lose engagement as a result.
But in terms of control, and ensuring that users remain in charge of their experiences, it provides another option. I guess.
Snapchat’s also rolling out new, more detailed notifications about content removals in the app, and how to appeal its findings (beginning with EU users initially), while it’s also implementing stricter controls around ad targeting for EU users under 18.
Snap’s also adding more ad transparency, with additional explainer notes on each ad:
“Tapping on the “why am I seeing this ad” will now give Snapchatters in the EU more details about why that ad was shown to them, and these Snapchatters will now also be able to limit personalisation of ads shown to them. This adds to the existing advertising controls all Snapchatters have had, such as the ability to hide some types of ads in the ads menu and to edit the Snap lifestyle interest categories allocated to them.”
Finally, Snap’s also putting together its own Ads Library, which, at this stage at least, will only include insights on EU campaigns.
“Anyone will be able to search this digital library of adverts shown in the EU, which will show details of paid advertising campaigns, such as who paid for the ad, a visual of the creative, campaign length, impressions broken down by EU country, and information about the targeting applied.”
Ideally, Snap would make the same info available for all ad campaigns in all regions, but even EU insights will be valuable for marketers, as well as researchers trying to get a better understanding of their impact.
Snap already enables anyone to download an archive of political ad campaigns, by year, on the platform.
The DSA is set to have a range of impacts for social media platforms, and consequently, a range of benefits for marketers, as it’ll facilitate access to a lot more data on ad campaigns, so you can find out how your competitors are using the available ad targeting options and tools.
As noted, I’m not sure that some of these options will be as beneficial for users as EU lawmakers seem to think, but it’s making the platforms provide them anyway, which will give people more choice as to how their personal insights are used.