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Facebook is cutting third-party data providers out of ad targeting to clean up its act

Facebook says it’s going to stop using data from third-party data providers like Experian and Acxiom.

Mark Zuckerberg Delivers Keynote Address At Facebook F8 Conference Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Facebook is going to limit how much data it makes available to advertisers buying hyper-targeted ads on the social network.

More specifically, Facebook says it will stop using data from third-party data aggregators — companies like Experian and Acxiom — to help supplement its own data set for ad targeting.

Facebook previously let advertisers target people using data from a number of sources:

  • Data from Facebook, which the company collects from user activity and profiles.
  • Data from the advertiser itself, like customer emails they’ve collected on their own.
  • Data from third-party services like Experian, which can collect offline data such as purchasing activity, that Facebook uses to help supplement its own data set. When marketers use this data to target ads on Facebook, the social giant gives some of the ad money from that sale to the data provider.

This third data set is primarily helpful to advertisers that might not have their own customer data, like small businesses or consumer packaged goods companies that sell their products through brick-and-mortar retailers.

But now Facebook is changing its relationship with these third parties as part of a broader effort to clean up its data practices following the recent Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal. (Facebook still uses these companies to help with ad measurement, though a source says that the company is reevaluating that practice, too.)

The thinking is that Facebook has less control over where and how these firms collect their data, which makes using it more of a risk. Apparently it’s not important enough to Facebook’s revenue stream to deal with a potential headache if something goes wrong.

Facebook confirmed the move in a statement attributable to Graham Mudd, a product marketing director at the company.

”We want to let advertisers know that we will be shutting down Partner Categories,” Mudd said in the statement. “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.”

Had it been made earlier, Facebook’s decision to stop using third-party data providers for targeting would not have impacted the outcome of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the outside firm collected the personal data of some 50 million Facebook users without their permission.

Instead, it’s indicative of a broader effort by Facebook to clean up its data practices given backlash from users, advertisers and investors. Tech companies are suddenly under more pressure than ever to take their roles as data gatekeepers more seriously, and Facebook appears to be weeding out potential vulnerabilities.

This article originally appeared on

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