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Facebook Drops Third Party Data for Ad Targeting

Social network has offered advertisers a mix of its own information with data from outside firms

Facebook is making a big change to its ad business.

The social network announced on Wednesday night it’ll stop offering third party data to help advertisers better target its users. The “Partner Categories” feature was first introduced in 2013, allowing ad buyers to combine Facebook’s mountain of user information with data from outside firms like Epsilon and Acxiom.

“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,” said Facebook in a blog post announcing the decision. “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.”

Moving forward, advertisers will strictly lean on data pulled from Facebook, like the pages a user “likes,” to run their ad campaigns.

The change comes in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data leak, where 50 million users had their information unknowingly harvested by the political data firm. Facebook’s stock has tanked about 14 percent in the last two weeks, as the company grapples with outside pressure to clean up its handling of user privacy.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined several steps the company would take to better protect its users last week, including an audit of “suspicious activity” from apps, and report when user data has been misused.

“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you,” said Zuckerberg. “We also made mistakes,” he added, saying, “There’s more to do, and we need to step up and do it.”

Even without the Cambridge Analytica revelation, however, Facebook would have been compelled to tweak its privacy settings, with new personal data regulations in Europe going into effect.