March 29, 2018
Facebook makes more changes in response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal—this time, it’s eliminating third-party data from its ad targeting options.
Because Facebook has less control over third-party data, for example, where or how they are collected, the social media company thinks it’s prudent to eliminate it altogether.
“Over the next six months, we will remove the ability to use Partner Categories,” said Chad Kramer, a Facebook representative in an email statement. “While leveraging third-party data is a common industry practice, and we’ve put good protections in place, we believe this step will help improve people’s privacy on Facebook.”
All Facebook advertisers must be aware of the following timeline.
May 10: Advertisers will be unable to create or edit a campaign using Partner Categories built on audiences from the UK, Germany, and France, although their ads will continue to run until May 24.
May 25: Advertisers will be unable to access Partner Categories in Ads Manager. Ads with Partner Categories targeting in the UK, Germany, and France will not deliver.
June 30: This is the last day advertisers can create campaigns using non-EU Partner Categories. The ads will run until September 30.
October 1: All other Partner Categories will no longer be available as targeting options. Ads with Partner Categories targeting will not be delivered.
Third-party data allows advertisers to target users based on their offline behaviors and the personal information Facebook does not have. This information, among many others, includes household income, amount of credit cards owned, items bought in-store, and intent to purchase a home.
It is hard to predict how significantly this change will affect the ad campaigns of Facebook advertisers. Without third-party data, they will be unable to target users based on offline behavior, consequently decreasing their ads’ targeting capabilities.
Still, advertisers can target users based on self-reported data (email, relationship status, phone number), leads they acquired, and Facebook’s internal data (behaviors within Facebook including post likes, group likes, shares, etc.).
Whether the loss of third-party data will cause ad performances to plummet, however, will reveal itself in time.
Facebook still reels from the consequences of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which involved the harvesting of 50 million Facebook profiles for political advertising. As a result, stocks dropped, investors sued, companies abandoned the network, and the FTC started an investigation.
Eliminating third-party data is only one among several steps Facebook is taking to protect users’ data. Recently, Facebook announced that it will audit suspicious apps, pause app review, and launch a News Feed feature that allows users to easily revoke apps’ access their data. CEO Mark Zuckerberg is also expected to testify before Congress.