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Facebook is distancing itself from data brokers

Facebook is dialing down its dealings with outside companies that collect information about consumers.The emba...

Posted: Mar 29, 2018 1:10 PM
Updated: Mar 29, 2018 1:10 PM

Facebook is dialing down its dealings with outside companies that collect information about consumers.

The embattled tech company announced late Wednesday it is shutting down a tool that enables advertisers to target users with information gathered by external data brokers. Facebook said winding down the tool, which will happen over a six-month period, will give people greater privacy on its platform.

The social network is in damage control after revelations that Cambridge Analytica, a data firm with ties to President Donald Trump's campaign, reportedly accessed information from about 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge.

Through a tool known as Partner Categories, Facebook has allowed advertisers to target highly specific groups of people on its platform using additional information gathered by the data-collecting firms.

Related: A long awaited privacy awakening is here

For example, a data broker might have information about a man who bought a coffee machine at a brick-and-mortar store because he swiped a loyalty card at the checkout counter. That information would be paired with data from the man's Facebook profile to put him into a bunch of categories: male, aged 30-49, coffee drinker, lives in Seattle.

When the man gets home and logs into Facebook, he might see an ad for espresso beans from a Seattle roaster. That's because the roaster has bought a narrowly targeted ad campaign using Partner Categories aimed at men in their 30s in Seattle who are into coffee.

Some people might like such personalized ads, but others may find them intrusive or manipulative.

Related: Facebook is making its privacy settings easier to find

"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," Graham Mudd, a product marketing director at the company, said in a post about ending the Partner Categories operation.

According to Facebook's website, the data brokers it works with include Acxiom, Epsilon, Oracle's Data Cloud and WPP.

Following Facebook's announcement, shares in Acxiom, the largest data collection company in the United States, fell more than 10% in after-hours trading.

UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said in a statement that she welcomed Facebook's decision.

"I have been examining this service in the context of my wider investigation into the use of personal data for political purposes and had raised it with Facebook as a significant area of concern," she said.

The shift away from data brokers is the latest move Facebook has made in the name of privacy.

Earlier Wednesday, it rolled out a series of changes to give people better control of their privacy settings and data.

Related: Is the tech wreck for Amazon and Facebook over or just beginning?

The company is in the midst of a crisis triggered by the Cambridge Analytica revelations that has wiped around $80 billion off its market value.

Some consumers and brands have been deleting their accounts over concerns about how Facebook handles user data.

Earlier this week, US regulators announced they were officially investigating Facebook's privacy practices.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly apologized for the data scandal. He has described it as "a breach of trust" and promised "to do better."

He is expected to testify before Congress over the matter.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 113876

Reported Deaths: 3238
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7850176
DeSoto685779
Harrison505083
Jackson445084
Rankin388186
Madison377993
Lee350779
Forrest299578
Jones287784
Washington255199
Lafayette245943
Lauderdale2418134
Lamar221238
Bolivar200177
Oktibbeha199354
Neshoba1831111
Lowndes176362
Panola169038
Leflore165187
Sunflower159749
Warren153655
Monroe147372
Pontotoc145819
Marshall139227
Lincoln138557
Pike137756
Copiah136236
Coahoma124736
Scott124729
Grenada121138
Yazoo120733
Simpson120449
Union116525
Tate114939
Leake114340
Holmes114160
Pearl River112259
Itawamba112125
Adams106743
Prentiss103719
Wayne99821
Alcorn98112
George97718
Covington95326
Marion93542
Tippah88121
Newton85227
Chickasaw83626
Tallahatchie83025
Winston82821
Tishomingo80041
Hancock79827
Attala78926
Clarke73450
Clay68321
Jasper67717
Walthall63627
Calhoun61912
Noxubee59617
Smith58916
Montgomery53523
Claiborne53316
Tunica52817
Yalobusha51914
Lawrence50714
Perry48623
Carroll47612
Greene46918
Stone46214
Humphreys42616
Amite42113
Quitman4196
Jefferson Davis40011
Webster37013
Wilkinson33520
Benton3255
Kemper32015
Sharkey28014
Jefferson27410
Franklin2373
Choctaw2046
Issaquena1074
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 155915

Reported Deaths: 2674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson22861374
Mobile14468314
Tuscaloosa10148139
Montgomery9875196
Madison915094
Shelby720462
Lee649665
Baldwin647569
Marshall433049
Calhoun418960
Etowah418749
Morgan403635
Houston369232
DeKalb330229
Elmore314852
St. Clair287142
Limestone276530
Walker272293
Talladega261035
Cullman235724
Lauderdale214841
Jackson210015
Autauga202330
Franklin202131
Colbert196731
Russell19233
Blount189325
Dallas186227
Chilton184132
Escambia171929
Coffee171710
Covington169929
Dale165451
Chambers133643
Pike132313
Tallapoosa130587
Clarke130017
Marion106229
Butler100140
Barbour9979
Marengo99222
Winston91313
Geneva8527
Pickens82417
Lawrence82131
Randolph81216
Bibb81114
Hale74930
Clay72912
Cherokee72614
Lowndes70328
Monroe64010
Henry6396
Bullock63717
Washington63412
Crenshaw60230
Perry5836
Wilcox56212
Fayette56113
Conecuh55713
Cleburne5438
Macon52920
Sumter47021
Lamar4665
Choctaw38812
Greene34216
Coosa2023
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