Facebook Ends 'Partner Categories' Ad Targeting Program

Faced with growing concerns about privacy, Facebook said Wednesday that it plans to end a targeting program that allowed advertisers to serve ads to users based on their offline purchase histories and locations.

The program, Partner Categories, will wind down over the next six months, Facebook Product Marketing Director Graham Mudd said in an email Wednesday. Mudd said that Facebook believes the step "will help improve people’s privacy."

The targeting information available through Partner Categories comes from data collected by brokers like Acxiom, Datalogix and Epsilon. Those companies capture information from a variety of sources, including retailers and public records.

The social networking service will still enable advertisers to target users based on data that people provide to Facebook directly, as well as data that advertisers have obtained about users. Facebook said when it launched Partner Categories that companies matched data with users via their email addresses or phone numbers, but that hashing technology would prevent marketers from knowing the names of the ad recipients.

Facebook's latest move comes as the company continues to face a backlash over revelations that Cambridge Analytica harvested data from 50 million users. 

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