Facebook announced today that it has disabled a form of advertising targeting, the so-called Partner Categories, which enabled prominent data aggregators such as Experian and Acxiom to provide their customers with offline data such as buying activity. This move is linked to Cambridge Analytica's ongoing data scandal and follows similar steps from the social network to limit abusive advertising practices. These include a brief pause in the release of third-party apps announced today, and new restrictions on the size and nature of third-party data applications are being announced through APIs such as Facebook Login, which was announced last week.
As shown by Recode it did not allow the partner categories that Cambridge Analytica could access up to 50 million Facebook profiles. The data mining company received data from a third-party app developer who violated the Facebook Terms of Service without the user's permission. Data aggregators are able to supplement companies with data they may not otherwise have. This allows marketers and Facebook to work together to better engage users.
For example, a company like Pepsi can advertise on Facebook by using information from Facebook profiles, information such as e-mail addresses, and information from data aggregators such as Experian to compile the shopping history and other valuable information. As part of its partner categories, Facebook shares sales with companies such as Experian, which provide information about its data every time a marketing expert purchases advertising space on Facebook. While this is not necessarily an inherently abusive practice, Facebook sees its existence as a potential threat in waiting, and the company is seemingly always adopting preventive measures to combat future data breaches and PR disasters such as the Cambridge Analytica.
"We want to tell advertisers that we're closing partner categories, which allows third-party data providers to target directly on Facebook," the brief, three-sentence long article posted on the company's newsroom blog states , "Although this is standard practice in the industry, we believe that this move, which will stall in the next six months, will help to improve people's privacy on Facebook."