Starting Monday, users who don’t explicitly link their Facebook and Instagram accounts in Facebook’s Accounts Center will be treated as two separate people.
The privacy-centric course correction could affect measurement and estimates for audience reach for advertisers.
In the past, Facebook served ads across a user’s Facebook and Instagram accounts based on assumptions that linked one account to another. It’s unlikely users realized this was happening.
For example, if the same email address controlled a Facebook and Instagram account, the two would be linked internally and considered one user for ads planning and measurement purposes.
Now only users who connect their main Facebook and Instagram accounts in Accounts Center as a single person will be considered the same user.
It makes sense for Facebook to start honoring this choice for ad purposes proactively rather than getting called out down the line for linking accounts without a user’s knowledge.
Facebook set the stage for this change in September when it rolled out a single sign-on hub dubbed Accounts Center, which lets users manage their settings across apps. Users who link their accounts in Accounts Center, for example, can more easily share stories and posts between Facebook and Instagram.
When Accounts Center first launched, its stated purpose was to make Facebook, Instagram and Messenger more interoperable for users.
Now, Facebook will begin to use preferences from the Accounts Center – such as whether accounts across its family of apps are linked or unlinked – to inform the metrics advertisers use for planning and campaign measurement.
In a blog post, Graham Mudd, Facebook’s VP of product marketing for ads, wrote that the update “aligns with trends of offering people more control over how their information is used for ads and is consistent with evolving advertising, privacy and regulatory environments.”
Facebook said advertisers probably won’t experience too much of an impact on their campaign reach. But Mudd did note that keeping unlinked account holders separate for advertising purposes could cause advertisers to see increases in their pre-campaign estimates, including estimated audience size.
Speaking of estimated audience size, just last week Facebook announced plans to display a range rather than a specific number when showing advertisers the potential reach of a campaign. Facebook also rebranded its “potential reach” metric to “estimated audience size.”
The move was partially to create more consistency between Facebook and how other platforms in the ad industry present their reach estimates, but it was likely also related to an ongoing lawsuit over how Facebook calculates potential reach.
And if there is an impact on estimated audience size as a result of Facebook not counting unlinked accounts as one person, Facebook’s decision to share a range rather than exact number means advertisers won’t be able to complain if there’s variability in the counts.