Facebook announced this week that it is limiting the amount of user information it shares with companies that gather and sell consumer data for advertisers amid mounting backlash over the social media company’s privacy practices.
The company is eliminating an ad-targeting tool called Partner Categories that allows data brokers to reach specific groups of Facebook users on behalf of their clients. The change in policy would prevent, for example, brokers such as Acxiom, Epsilon Data Management and Oracle ’s Data Cloud, from targeting users based on their shopping purchases and extending those campaigns to users with similar data profiles, options that had been available to the brokers for years.
Facebook is also reportedly ending its practice of offering anonymized user data to brokers that use the data to assess the success of their ad campaigns. In addition to making privacy changes that affect advertisers, Facebook has also unveiled new features to make it easier for users to control their personal data on the social network. On Wednesday, Facebook cofounder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in post on the social network that the company has started rolling out a new tab called “Privacy Shortcuts,” which will make all of users’ privacy and security settings available in one place.
The tab includes options to add two-factor authentication for account security; review and delete information shared such as posts users have created or reacted to, searches by a user and friend requests sent in a tool called “Access Your Information”; manage the information Facebook uses to target ads; and control who can see a users’ posts and profile information. Users will be able to more easily download the data they’ve shared with Facebook such as photos, posts and contacts and keep a copy or transfer it to another service.
Facebook is also adding a new feature to the top of every user’s news feed that documents all of the apps users have signed into through their Facebook account so they can easily remove connected apps they no longer use. The new changes should be available to all users in a few weeks, the company said. Facebook also plans to update its terms of service language to make easier to for users to understand in the coming weeks.
All of these new changes should help ease some of the recent tension around the privacy crisis. I mean, let’s be honest, it’s extremely creepy that the Facebook phone app not only tracks everything you do on Facebook, but it also logs your phone activity, calls, texts, all that. I think that is the part that worries consumers most. But the truth is, most of these apps are tracking everything we do, so what does it matter anyway.