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Facebook to shut down third-party ad targeting tool

How Google and Facebook keep tabs on you
How Google and Facebook keep tabs on you 08:37

Facebook (FB) says it is shutting down an advertising product that allowed marketers to tap data from people's lives outside of Facebook to target them on the platform, as the company tries to soothe concerns about the service's data-privacy methods. 

The information includes categories like home ownership and purchase history and is collected by some of the world's largest data brokers such as Acxiom, Epsilon and Experian.

Facebook's product marketing director Graham Mudd said in a statement that shutting down the feature over the next six months "will help improve people's privacy on Facebook."

The program allowed specific targeting of audiences using offline data about them in the U.S., Brazil, France, Germany, the U.K., Australia and Japan. 

The social-media giant is under scrutiny for its data-privacy practices following the revelation that Cambridge Analytica scraped data from 50 million Facebook users, which it reportedly used to influence U.S. elections. 

Concerns about how the service allowed such data collection to occur, as well as how it monitors and audits third-party businesses and researchers who gain access to its data, have prompted some consumers to delete their Facebook accounts. 

Researcher says era of privacy is over despite Facebook changes 02:48

Facebook will still collect data from its users that they supply to the service, such as their status updates, their likes, birthdays and work history. The service makes money by selling ads that target specific demographic groups, such as men between 18-24 who play video games or women who live in New York.

Facebook on Wednesday said it would overhaul its privacy controls to make them easier to use -- though some criticized the changes as not going far enough, given they will not affect Facebook's privacy policies or the types of data it gathers about its users. 

The social-media service has come under fire for obtaining users' data through terms and conditions buried in fine print, and from which it is extremely hard to opt out. 

Among the privacy setting changes is a redesign of its privacy settings for mobile phones so that they'll appear on a single screen, instead of spread across 20 different ones. The service said it will also make it easier to find privacy, security and advertising information with a new Privacy Shortcuts menu. 

Separately, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to testify before Congress about the company's privacy practices in coming weeks, according to a person familiar with the matter.

This person spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. Zuckerberg is aware there is intense pressure on him to testify, this person said.

This would be the first time Zuckerberg has ever testified before Congress. Last fall, the company sent its top lawyer to speak before Congress about Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Google and Twitter also sent lower-level executives to the three public hearings on the matter.

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