By Sarah Frier
Published: March 28, 2018 – 4:08 PM PDT
Updated:   March 28, 2018 –  5:52 PM PDT

  • Zuckerberg asking Facebook teams to review data practices
  • Changes could make it harder for advertisers to pinpoint users

Facebook Inc. is conducting a broad review of all its data practices and taking a much more conservative stance on some policies, moves that could limit advertisers’ ability to target users on the social network, according to people familiar with the matter.

As part of the changes that will be rolled out over the next few weeks, Facebook said it will no longer let advertisers use information from third-party data brokers, like Acxiom Corp. and Epsilon Data Management LLC, in targeting of ads on its system.

“We believe this step, winding down over the next six months, will help improve people’s privacy on Facebook,” Graham Mudd, Facebook product marketing director, said in a statement about the change in policy on data brokers on Wednesday. The company declined to give details on the larger review of its practices.

The social-media giant has been taking steps to rebuild consumer trust in its data-privacy practices after reports that political-advertising firm Cambridge Analytica had improperly obtained personal information on as many as 50 million users, and then failed to delete it when the leak was detected. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg is poised to appear before U.S. lawmakers on Capitol Hill to answer questions in the coming weeks.

In the wake of the scandal, Zuckerberg has asked all of Facebook’s teams to scrutinize their use of data and figure out whether they can explain why they need to access that information, and whether it makes the quality of Facebook better for the user, people familiar with the company said. If the access is not necessary or explainable, it may be changed.

Information from third-party data brokers is most useful to advertisers that don’t directly own the relationships with their customers, including big companies in the automotive, finance and consumer packaged-goods industries. The data companies get customer information from loyalty cards and other methods, and then sell it to the advertisers themselves for use in targeting. Facebook used to make those transactions between brands and third-party marketing firms possible on its own advertising site, but the social network will be making that relationship less convenient over the next six months.

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