Facebook is making an unprecedented effort to reassure its billions of users after years of surreptitiously hoovering up reams of data before packaging it and selling it to the highest bidder.
The practice was extremely lucrative for Facebook
But after allowing users to view all of the data Facebook has collected on them over the years (an option that likely only served to incite more panic about the company's all-seeing ways), Facebook is finally beginning to sever its relationships with certain third-party data providers that - though they were lucrative - were also the source of some of the company's worst abuses of unsuspecting consumers' data.
According to RT, Facebook said Thursday that it will stop offering an advertising option that allows its customers to exploit personal data provided by third-party data aggregators - firms like Acxiom, Epsilon, TransUnion, Experian and others, according to Product Marketing Director Graham Mudd.
These data aggregators helped Facebook provide its advertising customers with more precise data profiles of Facebook users. The data chiefly pertained to customers' offline activities, which made it particularly valuable for the social media giant. In return, Facebook would kick back some of its advertising earnings to these third parties. Facebook plans to completely phase out the program, known as "partner categories" over the next six months.
In a brief statement published on the Facebook newsroom, the company said that, while allowing advertisers to use data from third party aggregators is a "common industry practice," Facebook is going the extra mile to ensure its users are comfortable.
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 news is the latest capitulation by Facebook after some advertisers, including Mozilla and Commerzbank, have canceled their ad partnerships with Facebook while some brands have protested by deleting their Facebook pages.
Mozilla even went so far as to design a "Facebook condom" setting that will allow users to stop the social-networking site from hoovering up their data.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg has offered a (hollow-sounding) apology to Facebook's users and has also assented to demands that he testify before two US Congressional committees next month (while snubbing lawmakers in the UK).
Meanwhile, Bloomberg published a feature yesterday exposing Facebook's tolerance of shady "affiliate marketers" who help hucksters sell diet pills and other sham supplements to unsuspecting Facebook users. Still no word on whether the company plans to amend that program...
My wife and I discussed a Fat Tire Bike Tour of Paris over iMessage last night. Today I get an ad in my FB feed for it. Unreal you dirtbags— Michael Antonelli (@BullandBaird) March 29, 2018
...Or whether any of these reforms will stop this from happening...