Facebook Disables Third-Party Data For Ad Targeting

Written by Nitish Singh
Last updated July 12, 2021

Following the aftermath of the data harvesting scandal by Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, the company notorious for collecting user data, has come under the radar of legislators and regulators. The social media giant is being scrutinized and questioned as their negligence to protect user data, compromised 50 million US Facebook users. Now, the company has promised to reinforce better security and privacy protection measure. The recent of which is the disabling of a form of advertising targeting called Partner Categories. This feature allowed third-party data aggregators like Acxiom and Experian to collect and sell user data to clients to help with ad targeting.

Apart from this, the company has also put a pause on third-party app approvals along with a new limitation on the volume and type of data third-party apps can obtain through APIs - e.g., Facebook login.

Partner Categories ad targeting

Image Courtesy of Acxiom

However, according to a report by Recode, Partner Categories is not what allowed the data mining firm(Cambridge Analytica) to gain access to the 50 million Facebook profiles. In fact, it was through third-party app developers who were in violations of Facebook’s terms of services. In this regard, it is worth noting that data aggregators are at the root of supplementing companies with data they might not otherwise have, which in turn allows the marketers and Facebook themselves to work together and refine their ad targeting.

Now inherently, this is not a malicious practice, but to fend off any future instances similar to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook is cutting their ties with third-party apps and data aggregators, as well as their involvement with ad targeting on the platform.

Facebook informed users about this decision in a post on the company’s Newsroom blog: “We want to let advertisers know that we will be shutting down Partner Categories. This product enables third party data providers to offer their targeting directly on Facebook. [...] While this is common industry practice, we believe this step, winding down over the next six months, will help improve people’s privacy on Facebook.

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