Facebook is working on a new Custom Audiences certification tool that will require marketers to guarantee that the email addresses they use for ad targeting were obtained legitimately with user consent, Facebook representatives confirmed in a TechCrunch report.
Facebook will also stop Custom Audience data from being shared across Facebook Business accounts.
Custom Audiences launched in 2012 as a way for companies to upload lists of customer email addresses or phone numbers so advertisers could target specific people instead of broad groups. The tool’s terms of service required companies to notify users and get consent to collect and use their contact information.
Facebook is taking an additional step to safeguard and prevent misuse of user information, after facing considerable backlash following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Taken together, a series of steps over the past couple of weeks will make advertising on Facebook potentially more cumbersome and less efficient for marketers. Whether this will be enough to cause some brands to leave the platform, which still offers significant reach, remains to be seen.
The added certification tool in Custom Audiences, a popular program that enables businesses to target consumers they have emails for with ads on Facebook, means that Facebook is now enforcing policies that it already had in place. Custom Audiences has required that marketers get permission to collect and share user contact information, but the platform didn’t always enforce the policies, leaving the process open to abuse. Marketers saw benefits to bending or breaking the rules to target ads and few consequences, according to TechCrunch. In a similar vein, there were policies for app developers to not sell, share or misuse data collected from Facebook users, but lack of enforcement ultimately led to the Cambridge Analytica disaster.
Late last week, Facebook said it will shut down its Partner Categories program that lets marketers target ads based on third-party data. The move will impact partners, including Epsilon, Oracle, WPP and Acxiom. As consumers are demanding more personalization from marketers, Facebook’s recent moves could have a big impact on marketers’ ability to deliver. It could also affect how brands allocate their digital ad budgets, a large portion of which now goes to Facebook.
To address users’ growing concerns over the security of their personal information, Facebook has also updated its privacy and transparency tools, including improved settings layout, privacy shortcuts and the ability for users to download all of their Facebook data, to give them more direct control over the information they put on the platform and how it’s used. In a recent survey by securities firm Raymond James, nearly 20% of Facebook users said they would be using the platform “significantly less” because of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and 43% said they were “very concerned” about the data breach.