Facebook has decided to close yet another avenue that lets advertisers target users. The social network is shutting down “Partner Categories,” its program that allowed third-party data companies to offer their services directly through Facebook.
Some background: There’s an enormous industry of companies besides Facebook that harvest user data and then sell it or access to it. They sometimes have freshman-philosophy names like Acxiom or Experian or Epsilon. In addition to Facebook’s own targeting mechanisms, high-level operation might also merge that with data from third-party firms for even more precise targeting. It’s kinda like how you can get an HBO subscription through your Hulu subscription — a premium add-on that makes the service more effective and useful. “As part of Partner Categories,” the Verge explains, “Facebook shares revenue with companies like Experian that help inform its data set every time a marketer purchases ad space on Facebook using that data.”
Now, that program is no more. Which is only to say that marketers will just have to go to these other data brokers directly, rather than through Facebook. In a brief note, Facebook said, “While [using third-party data] is common industry practice, we believe this step, winding down over the next six months, will help improve people’s privacy on Facebook.” I mean, maybe? It’s not clear how ending these partnerships will lessen the data-harvesting habits that got us into this mess in the first place.