Third Party Data Targeting and Facebook are never, ever, ever getting back together. This article explains why you shouldn't worry.

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Unless you’ve recently been hiding under a rock, you’ve probably seen that Facebook is kind of having a bad couple of weeks. From Cambridge Analytica, to privacy policy changes, to sweeping Ads Manager tool changes, to #deletefacebook, it seems like Facebook can’t catch a break.

I mean, Zucks himself took out a whole page ad in multiple newspapers apologizing for this fiasco!

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To make matters worse, yesterday Facebook announced that it was removing third party partner data from its ad platform targeting. If you’re not familiar with third party data, here’s a quick primer: companies like Axciom, Epsilon, Corelogic, Oracle, Equifax, and many others gather behavioral information about you, and sell it to the top bidder. If you use your credit card to buy dog food, then a data broker would package that data and sell it to advertisers who want to use it for their targeting.

These third party data providers know A LOT about you: what kind of stuff you’re looking up online (if you have been shopping for a Toyota online then an advertiser like me can buy that data in a “likely to purchase a Toyota in 30/60/90 days as ad targeting), how much money you make from credit card applications (claim to make $100,000 on a credit card app when you only make $30,000? Well that explains that Lexus ad you’ve been seeing recently), whether or not you’re a homeowner, your net worth, what kind of makeup or shampoo you buy from the store, and so on.

So when Facebook announced this plan to remove partner data (to be phased out through October 1st, 2018) roughly 110% of the advertisers I know went into panic mode (I might be exaggerating a bit here, but you get the point). Me on the other hand - I have a different theory.

Before I explain my theory, I want to make three things crystal clear:


  1. Partner data categories for targeting purposes HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA SCANDAL. The API at fault for allowing the Cambridge Analytica data breach was shut down two years ago.

  2. Facebook had been planning on shutting down Partner Category options for the upcoming GDPR regulatory compliance requirement in Europe for all countries in the Euro Zone anyways.

  3. Facebook has been launching a slew of new products & features within the platform recently: the ability to react with more than just a “like,” messenger bots and tools to pay through messenger, the ability to receive money through Facebook, Advanced AI and image recognition software, etc. Did you know that analyzing your “like” history can predict your ethnicity within 95% accuracy? (source: The Atlantic) Imagine how much more accurate that data is now that we have a range of reactions to select from.

With this in mind, Facebook has two things that no other data broker has: intimate detailed knowledge about you updated in real-time (friendships, photos, work history, interests and consumer tastes, mobile data, location data, facial recognition data for you and your friends, etc) AND the Facebook Pixel.


The Facebook Pixel is installed on a massive percentage of websites out there, and is an incredibly useful tool for advertisers to create retargeting audiences, glean customer insight, AND run conversion campaigns based on certain objectives. The vast majority of advertisers use this Facebook Pixel for their campaign measurement… but let me ask you something – if a Facebook advertiser like Petco has the Facebook pixel on its site, and can see a specific user ID buying a bag of dog food or a different dog product via the pixel, does Facebook really need to offer third party data to find people who are “likely to be a dog owner,” or does it likely already have that information already when it combines pixel data with the intimate data it already has from you via your Facebook profile that no other data provider has.


Make no mistake – I see this move as Facebook consolidating dominance in the advertising world and closing their platform so no one else has this information to be used on any other platform (it should be noted that Google/Youtube, Snapchat, Twitter, and even Pinterest ALL offer third party data on their platform, and will continue to do so).


Let me ask you something: does Facebook really need to even offer third party data for you to find a homeowner to target on Facebook? OR can it already see that you have clicked on a Home Depot page for lawn fertilizer and also saw last week that you visited Wells Fargo mortgage payment page – both websites each having a pixel on it, tracking your user ID and linking back to your profile? I think you know the answer to this.

“Facebook is officially in the data mining business,” said Joel Winston, a privacy lawyer in Pittsburgh. “It's a definitive signal that Facebook's data capture and identity targeting technology is light-years ahead of its competitors.” (source: The Washington Post)

I have one more point to make before I go: Facebook announced the partner categories relationship back in 2013, and five years is practically a lifetime in the digital world. Facebook is a mish-mosh of complex and sophisticated algorithms based on first and second party data, and 5 years is A LONG TIME… long enough to develop algorithms to model predictive audiences versus modeled data supplied by third party data providers. With that said, Facebook has announced that it will continue to measure ad campaigns against third party data in a way that doesn’t share personal data with these data partners like it did before, after October 1st 2018. So, now Facebook can still measure the effectiveness of its targeting algorithm against third party data, without sharing actual information with the data provider like it did before – helping Facebook continuously perfect its targeting algorithm without any of the side effects. And now the third party data provider can’t sell that shared information to anyone else either – Google, Snapchat, Twitter, or Pinterest.


Kinda makes you go “hmmmmmm,” doesn’t it?


Originally posted by me at: 3rd-party-data-targeting-facebook-never-ever-getting-back-carroll/