Facebook Kills Off Third-Party Data For Targeting

Facebook is going to stop allowing third-party data providers from offering targeting directly on its platform.

The move is a direct reaction to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

In the past, advertisers could use a feature called partner categories to supplement the targeting they do on Facebook with data from brokers, such as recent purchases or household income – data that Facebook doesn’t easily have access to on its own.

Brokers like Acxiom, Epsilon, Oracle, Experian and TransUnion pull this data from a hodgepodge of external sources, including credit card companies, loyalty programs and retailers.

But, starting Sept. 30, advertisers will no longer have the option to use this data to augment their campaigns. The only data they’ll be able to use for targeting on Facebook is either their own first-party data or the data that Facebook collects itself, such as likes, location data, interest data or search history.

Partner categories were primarily used by businesses that don’t have access to their own customer data to plug into Facebook’s CRM matching solution Custom Audiences.

Advertisers will still be able to use Custom Audiences to find existing customers on Facebook and create lookalike audiences. But without partner categories, any third-party data advertisers will have to come through their direct partnership with a third-party provider.

So a brand can buy data on its own to inform targeting on Facebook – it just can’t get that third-party data through Facebook.

It’s worth noting that Facebook will still work with third-party brokers for measurement purposes, including measuring offline behavior as Facebook does through a partnership with Oracle’s Datalogix.

Although advertisers will likely balk at this curtailment of targeting options, getting rid of partner categories probably won’t change their Facebook buying strategies all that much, considering the volume of data Facebook still has at its disposal for targeting.

Using third-party data to enrich an audience buy is standard operating procedure in the digital ad space. But Facebook is aware that it’s under the microscope.

“This product enables third-party data providers to offer their targeting directly on Facebook,” said Graham Mudd, a product marketing director at Facebook, in a statement. “While this is common industry practice, we believe this step … will help improve people’s privacy on Facebook.”

The move is part of numerous changes Facebook has promised to make to secure its platform. Less data flowing in and out of Facebook means, at least in theory, a more secure experience for users. Facebook has been under enormous pressure following the fallout from Cambridge Analytica to shore up its data protection policies.

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg published a post detailing Facebook’s plans to more systematically audit third-party developers, ban any that misuse personal data and notify affected users of any wrongdoing, including those affected by the Cambridge Analytica debacle.

On Monday, Facebook quietly announced that it’s temporarily blocking new chatbots and apps from launching on its platform while it sorts out its audit process.

Facebook also announced tweaks to its privacy tools on Wednesday that will make it easier for user to access, manage and delete the data that Facebook collects about them.

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1 Comment

  1. Seems less about privacy than denying revenue to competing sources of targeting information. At most, it reduces some possibility for consumers to feel they’ve been targeted based on personal data they hadn’t realized was available about them. It also makes it less likely that they’d think Facebook had information that really came from some other source. But certainly doesn’t address any of the real issues related to Facebook and privacy.