Facebook to end targeted ads built with third-party data mining

The fallout from the Cambridge Analytica controversy has triggered Facebook to cancel an advertising tool that pulled data from people's backgrounds, like whether you own a home or what products you like to buy.

"We want to let advertisers know that we will be shutting down Partner Categories," Facebook said on Wednesday. "This product enables third party data providers to offer their targeting directly on Facebook."

These third-party providers include Acxiom and Experian, which specialize in mining data on US consumers that can be rented out for marketing purposes. Information about your ethnicity, marital status, whether you own a car, the kinds of purchases you make, and how much you spend on them can all be logged.

The data mining certainly sounds creepy, but it's also legal and standard practice in the marketing world. Acxiom, for instance, pulls the information from public records, consumer surveys, and other commercial entities that managed to collect your information with your consent.

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Facebook decided to let its own advertisers harness the power of these data brokers with its Partner Categories over on its ad platform. But no more. The company is phasing out the tool, amid the growing backlash over the social media giant's privacy practices.

"We believe this step, winding down over the next six months, will help improve people's privacy on Facebook," the company said.

The social media giant's privacy practices have been under the microscope ever since news emerged that a UK political consultancy called Cambridge Analytica managed to pull the personal data from 50 million Facebook users. It did so with the help of a third-party app that surveyed Facebook users, by not only collecting their data, but also vacuuming information on their Facebook friends.

In response, Facebook is revamping its privacy practices, and Wednesday's move to end the advertising tool represents another step. Marketers might not like the decision, even as the platform still offers a variety of tools to create targeted ads. But the social networking service is facing a growing #Deletefacebook movement, along with the threat of possible government regulation on data privacy, both of which could derail Facebook's business.

This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.