The flurry of activity in response to the Cambridge Analytica case continues at Facebook.
In addition to updating their privacy controls, halting bot and app approvals and conducting forensic audits of previously approved apps, Facebook has now also announced that they’re removing the option to utilize third-party provided data within their own ad tools.
Facebook released this very brief statement on the change:
“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.”
The two important points to note:
- Partner Categories will be removed
- They’ll be phased out over the next 6 months
If you’re not aware, Partner Categories are third party data that Facebook integrates into its ad system to improve targeting. At present, Facebook provides this data from the following providers, in the following regions:
- Australia - Acxiom, Experian, Greater Data, and Quantium
- Brazil – Experian
- France – Acxiom
- Germany – Acxiom
- Japan - Acxiom and CCC
- United Kingdom - Acxiom, Experian, and Oracle Data Cloud (formerly DLX)
- United States - Acxiom, Epsilon, Experian, Oracle Data Cloud (formerly DLX), TransUnion, and WPP
Each of these groups provides additional data to assist with your Facebook targeting – you’ll see this denoted in your Facebook ad targeting selection, with the source of each data element provided (you can read more on this from Facebook ads expert Jon Loomer here).
Essentially, Facebook supplements its own data insights with these additional consumer research sources – there are no guarantees that this will make your ad targeting more accurate, but more insight is generally better, and by incorporating additional resources like this, Facebook’s aiming to make your ads more effective.
But now they’ll no longer be included.
The impact of this is tough to say – some of these data points would clearly be of benefit, but then again, at more than two billion users, Facebook data would be more than enough, in most cases, to provide accurate targeting.
Really, the move seems more aligned with securing Facebook’s reputation – there’s been no controversy around the use of these data sources, specifically, as yet, but Facebook may be pre-empting any further backlash by removing them as an option, thereby relying on only their own data, which they're responsible for checking and confirming. If one of these providers were found to have used questionable tactics, or provided non-approved data, Facebook could find itself in more trouble – this could be a way to simply reduce potential liability on Facebook’s part.
The other consideration here is that advertisers themselves can still use these data providers in building their own custom audiences, which they can then upload to Facebook. It’s more work, obviously, it’ll take more effort for advertisers to obtain the data and create the audiences themselves, but again, it takes the onus off Facebook, making them less responsible for any potential misuse.
How this change will impact your ad efforts will be relative. For some sectors, the additional data provided by these groups had big benefits – car buyers, for example, as highlighted in the above image. But for most, Facebook targeting alone is indicative enough. It may also lead to these groups looking to offer additional ways for brands to purchase their data lists to augment their own audiences, enabling them to keep using them for Facebook targeting.
It’s the latest example of Facebook tightening their data usage rules, which you can expect to see more of as the controversy over Cambridge Analytica rages on. We’ll keep you updated as these changes occur.
UPDATE (3/31): TechCrunch is reporting that Facebook will also institute a new process which will require advertisers to confirm they have user permission to upload custom audience data. The full details are not 100% clear at this stage, but Facebook aims to add an extra level of qualification to ensure personal data is not musised.