Communicating Algorithmic Process in Online Behavioral Advertising

April, 2018


Advertisers develop algorithms to select the most relevant advertisements for users. However, the opacity of these algorithms, along with their potential for violating user privacy, has decreased user trust and preference in behavioral advertising. To mitigate this, advertisers have started to communicate algorithmic processes in behavioral advertising. However, how revealing parts of the algorithmic process affects users' perceptions towards ads and platforms is still an open question. To investigate this, we exposed 32 users to why an ad is shown to them, what advertising algorithms infer about them, and how advertisers use this information. Users preferred interpretable, non-creepy explanations about why an ad is presented, along with a recognizable link to their identity. We further found that exposing users to their algorithmically-derived attributes led to algorithm disillusionment---users found that advertising algorithms they thought were perfect were far from it. We propose design implications to effectively communicate information about advertising algorithms.

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