Facebook is removing third-party data from its ad targeting equation in response to the privacy controversy it's currently enduring. The world's largest social media network recently announced a number of changes meant to win back consumer trust it lost following the revelation that its loose data protection practices allowed political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to improperly harvest data of around 50 million Facebook users three and a half years ago. Besides limiting advertisers in regards to how they're able to leverage data, the company is introducing a revamped privacy control hub meant to provide users with a straightforward set of tools for setting their privacy preferences and identifying the data Facebook has on them.
A more limited advertising platform is unlikely to sit well with the largest marketers supporting Facebook, many industry watchers believe. Officially, the move is coming in the form of a discontinuation of the Partner Categories program that allowed brands to leverage third-party data to deliver advertisements to specific people, meaning it was often used to insert offline behavior data into Facebook. The likes of Oracle and Acxiom previously often ran surveys and pulled information from store loyalty programs or public records to complement Facebook's own knowledge base with them, thus serving highly targeted advertising. The discontinuation of the service is likely to decrease the accuracy of Facebook's targeting algorithms, consequently lowering the average price of ad units sold through the platform.
Facebook Product Marketing Director Graham Mudd referred to third-party data usage in the context of Facebook's advertising platform as a "common industry practice" but claimed the company is dropping the mechanism in order to ensure its users enjoy a higher degree of privacy on the social network. The program is still live and will be gradually discontinued over the course of the next half a year. The Cambridge Analytica controversy is presently being investigated by the FTC and European authorities, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg being set to testify on the matter in front of U.S. Congress next month, according to recent reports.