Facebook abandons controversial third-party targeted adverts

A portrait of Facebook found Mark Zuckerberg is seen on an iPhone in this photo illustration on 28 A

A portrait of Facebook found Mark Zuckerberg is seen on an iPhone in this photo illustration on 28 August, 2017. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto/Sipa USA) - Credit: SIPA USA/PA Images

Facebook's decision to shut down a feature that allowed third party firms to better target users with adverts has been welcomed by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

The under-fire social network confirmed in a short statement that it was shutting down its Partner Categories service to improve user privacy on the site.

The firm has been criticised over its data practices in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which saw personal information from 50 million Facebook users harvested by the consultancy firm.

The feature had allowed data aggregation firms such as Experian and Oracle to bring their own advert metrics on to the site, which could then be used by advertisers to better inform who they target with their advertising.

'We want to let advertisers know that we will be shutting down Partner Categories,' Facebook said.

'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.'

In response to the social network's decision, Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: 'I welcome Facebook's announcement that it will be shutting down its partner category service, using third party data to inform targeted advertising.

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'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. The use of third party sources of data will be covered in more detail in the report my office will publish soon.'

The change is one of several announced since the Cambridge Analytica revelations broke, with the social media platform confirming an overhaul of its privacy settings on Wednesday.

Facebook described the changes as an important step in making its privacy controls easier to find and use.