The Elimination of Third-Party Data by Facebook

By Nicole Rice / March 30, 2018 / Social Media

What the Update Means for Advertisers & Users

Social media specialists who work with local business and constantly preach about the usefulness of Facebook’s third-party data — like myself — who have now learned that Facebook plans to stop using that third-party data for its Partner Categories targeting options are not feeling too good.

In fact, it feels like we just got punched in the gut.

Facebook dropped this bomb through Graham Mudd, director of monetization product marketing at the company. Emails have gone out to companies with Facebook reps as well.

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

Yes, users’ personal information should not be available to the highest bidder, but that is not going to be solved by this move.

That data will still be available to big brands — they’ll just have to buy it straight from Experian, Acxiom, and the other data-aggregator companies. Also, your data is still being collected by credit card companies, loyalty cards, internet searches, etc., regardless of whether Facebook is using it or not.

What this move really does is make it harder for small businesses to reach people who would actually want to buy their products or use their services without spending millions of dollars to do so.

With the announced changes, real estate agents will not be able to easily offer their services to people likely to move. A nonprofit organization focused on helping veterans won’t be able to ask for support from the pool of people with an interest in donating to veteran causes. Local Jeep dealerships won’t be able to share offers with people looking to buy a new Jeep. An environmentally friendly makeup company will no longer be able to share its story with people who buy eco-friendly products already. A mom and pop hardware store won’t be able to boost its weekly sales to people who buy a lot of tools and home renovation products (but Home Depot or Lowes could still buy that straight from Oracle).

The list could go on and on.

Personally, I would rather see ads and content tailored to my preferences and behaviors, and would much prefer to support a local business or at least a company that has values that align with my own.

I have bought things from Facebook ads knowing full well that I was being targeted, but those products were extremely relevant to my lifestyle and I probably would not have seen them otherwise. Do I want to see a bunch of ads for cat food, hunting, and baby toys? No, because none of those things are relevant to my life.

This move also brings up several questions:

  • What does this mean for other social networks that use outside data?
  • Does anyone really care that ads were being targeted based on their buying habits or is this just an overreaction to an unrelated issue (thanks a lot, Cambridge Analytica)?
  • Will this be the end to successful Facebook marketing and my job?

Who knows at this point? It looks like the drop-dead point for ads using these targets will be September 30, 2018, so maybe Facebook will figure out a better system before then.

The funniest/saddest/most ridiculous part of all of this is that Facebook’s decision to stop using third-party data providers for targeting would not have impacted the outcome of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, even if the move had been made earlier.

For those of you that have no idea what Cambridge Analytica is — it’s a Trump campaign-linked data firm that collected the personal data of millions of Facebook users without their permission and started this hate campaign against Facebook.

The immediate impact of these changes is yet to be seen, but, for now, I’m going to continue ranting in a group text to all my other marketing-professional friends now. It’s therapeutic.