National technology reporter covering artificial intelligence March 29, 2018
Facebook was for years a best friend to the data brokers who make hundreds of millions of dollars a year gathering and selling Americans' personal information. Now, the world's largest social network is souring that relationship --- a sign that the company believes it has overshadowed their data-gathering machine.
Facebook多年来一直是数据经纪人的最好朋友，他们每年赚取数亿美元收集和销售美国人的个人信息。现在，这个世界上最大的社交网络正在恶化这种关系 - 这标志着该公司认为它已经掩盖了他们的数据收集机器。
Facebook said late Wednesday that it would stop data brokers from helping advertisers target people with ads, severing one of the key methods marketers used to link users' Facebook data about their friends and lifestyle with their offline data about their families, finances and health.
The data brokers have for years served a silent but critical role in directing users' attention to Facebook's ads. They also, critics say, stealthily contributed to the seemingly all-knowing creepiness of users seeing ads for things they never mentioned on their Facebook pages. A marketer who wanted to target new mothers, for instance, could use the data brokers' information to send Facebook ads to all women who bought baby formula with a store rewards card.
Acxiom, Experian and other data brokers once had a prized seat at Facebook's table, through a program called Partner Categories, that allowed advertisers to tap into the shadow profiles crafted with data from Facebook and the brokers to drill down on their target audience. The data brokers got a cut of the money when the ads they helped place turned into a sale, and Facebook also shared some data with the brokers to help gauge how well its ads performed.
A Facebook director said in a statement that the company will wind down that program over the next six months, which "will help improve people's privacy on Facebook." But privacy experts saw the move as an assertion of dominance from the social network, which in recent years has consolidated its power over an increasingly intimate level of detail about its users' lives --- and wants advertisers to pay for its expertise.
一位Facebook董事在一份声明中表示，该公司将在未来六个月内放弃该计划，"这将有助于改善Facebook上的人们的隐私。"但隐私专家认为此举是对社交网络主导地位的一种主张，近年来，社交网络已经巩固了其对用户生活越来越亲密的细节的影响力 - 并希望广告商为其专业知识付费。
"Facebook is officially in the data-mining business," said Joel Winston, a privacy lawyer in Pittsburgh. "It's a definitive signal that Facebook's data capture and identity-targeting technology is light-years ahead of its competitors'."
The move comes as Facebook battles a major privacy scandal in the wake of revelations that a political data firm, Cambridge Analytica, took advantage of the site's loose privacy rules and improperly obtained data on more than 30 million Facebook users. The company has in recent days outlined steps showing how users can see and limit what Facebook knows about them, following what chief executive Mark Zuckerberg called a "major breach of trust."
In 2015, Facebook restricted the kinds of data that outside developers, including the researcher who fed data to Cambridge Analytica, could gather from users and their friends.Christopher Wylie, Cambridge Analytica's whistleblower, told The Washington Post that Cambridge Analytica had paired Facebook data with information from data brokers to build out its voter profiles.
But the social network continued to strengthen its ties with the data brokers who gather and repackage user information. That year, Acxiom
但社交网络继续加强与收集和重新打包用户信息的数据经纪人的联系。那一年，Acxiomsaid its involvement in Partner Categories helped its advertising clients use Facebook "to better connect with people more inclined to buy certain products or services," adding that its clients included most of the country's top 10 insurers, retailers, automakers, hotels, telecommunications giants and banks. One year earlier, in 2014, the Federal Trade Commission issued a
它参与合作伙伴类别帮助其广告客户使用Facebook"更好地与更倾向于购买某些产品或服务的人联系"，并补充说其客户包括该国十大保险公司，零售商，汽车制造商，酒店，电信巨头和银行的大部分。一年前，在2014年，联邦贸易委员会发布了一份report finding that data brokers had collected information on nearly every American and saying that the brokers "operate with a fundamental lack of transparency."
While Facebook gathers much of its 2 billion users' online information, the data brokers attempt to scoop up everything else,including billions of bits of information from voter rolls, property records, purchase histories, loyalty card programs, consumer surveys, car dealership records and other databases.
The brokers use that raw data to build models predicting (with varying success) many hundreds of details about a customer's behavior, finances and personality: age, family status, household income, whether she likes crossword puzzles, interest in buying a household pet, likelihood of having a funeral plan. The data brokers then sell those consumer profiles to marketers and major conglomerates seeking a vast and targeted customer base --- including on Facebook, which now accounts for a fifth of the world's online ads.
经纪人使用原始数据建立模型，预测（成功的变化）有关客户行为，财务和个性的数百个细节：年龄，家庭状况，家庭收入，是否喜欢填字游戏，购买家庭宠物的兴趣，可能性有一个葬礼计划。然后，数据经纪人将这些消费者档案出售给寻求广泛和有针对性的客户群的营销商和主要企业集团 - 包括Facebook，目前占全球在线广告的五分之一。
Acxiom, the Arkansas-based broker that has worked with Facebook since 2013 and reported more than $880 million in revenue last year, estimated Facebook's ditching of its data-sharing program would carve as much as $25 million from the company's revenue and profit. In a
Acxiom是总部位于阿肯色州的经纪商，自2013年以来一直与Facebook合作，去年的收入超过8.8亿美元，估计Facebook放弃其数据共享计划将从该公司的收入和利润中捞出2500万美元。在一个statement late Wednesday, Acxiom said Facebook had alerted it that day to the news. "Today, more than ever, it is important for businesses to be able to rely upon companies that understand the critical importance of ethically sourced data and strong data governance. These are among Acxiom's core strengths," chief executive Scott Howe said.
周三晚些时候，Acxiom表示Facebook当天已经提醒了这一消息。 "今天，企业比以往任何时候都更重要的是能够依赖那些了解道德来源数据和强大数据治理的重要性的公司。这些都是Acxiom的核心优势，"首席执行官Scott Howe说。Its stock plunged more than 30 percent Thursday morning.
Representatives for data broker Experian did not respond to questions, and data broker Oracle Data Cloud declined to comment.
数据经纪商Experian的代表没有回答问题，数据经纪人Oracle Data Cloud拒绝发表评论。Experian stock moved downward slightly, while
股票小幅下跌，而Oracle shares traded up about 1 percent. Facebook shares climbed about 3 percent, helping puncture weeks of losses.
Data brokers' models are often intricately and oddly detailed: Acxiom has
数据经纪人的模型通常是错综复杂且奇怪的：Acxiom有categorized people into one of 70 "household life stage clusters," including "Career-Centered Singles," "Soccer and SUVs," "Apple Pie Families" and "Rolling Stones." But advertisers wanting more information --- served straight from the source, in the person's own words --- have increasingly turned to Facebook, where they can grab first-party data from the actual customer, and not just third-party data gathered and analyzed from afar.
人们成为70个"家庭生活阶段集群"之一，包括"以职业为中心的单打"，"足球和SUV"，"苹果派家庭"和"滚石"。但广告商希望获得更多信息 - 直接从消息来源提供，用个人自己的话说 - 越来越多地转向Facebook，他们可以从实际客户那里获取第一方数据，而不仅仅是收集的第三方数据和从远处分析。
Facebook and the data brokers have often dealt in the same kinds of personal information advertisers find impossible to resist. Experian, for instance, runs a
Facebook和数据经纪人经常处理广告商发现无法抗拒的同类个人信息。例如，Experian运行了一个Newborn Network that sells advertisers detailed information, gleaned from personal spending and demographic data, of women they predict are new and expectant mothers; the company says it "captures more than 80 percent of all U.S. births." But Facebook users also freely share baby photos and mark their life events --- a more direct way of relaying the same information to sellers of baby formula, cribs and maternity clothes.
向广告商出售从个人支出和人口统计数据中收集的详细信息，他们预测的女性是新的和准妈妈;该公司称其"占据了美国所有婴儿的80％以上。"但Facebook用户还可以自由分享婴儿照片并标记他们的生活事件 - 这是向婴儿奶粉，婴儿床和孕妇装的卖家传递相同信息的更直接方式。
Advertisers will still be able to work with the data brokers to gather information and target customers; they'll just have to do it outside Facebook. Critics pointed to a few ways, such as Facebook's Custom Audiences tool, that will allow advertisers to still target customers en masse based on financial and other data they've pulled from across the Web.
Some privacy experts cheered Facebook's data-broker move as a step toward preserving user privacy. "It's long overdue that Facebook owned up to the serious erosion of consumer privacy made possible by its alliance with powerful data brokers," said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Washington privacy-rights nonprofit Center for Digital Democracy.
Chris Sperandio, a product head of privacy at the marketing-data start-up Segment, said the move also helps Facebook dodge growing questions over the source of its user information. That is quickly becoming a high-stakes legal issue: A sweeping privacy rule coming to Europe in May, the General Data Protection Regulation, will make the company more liable and accountable for knowing where its data comes from.
"Third-party data is supplied by a vendor, and this data that the vendors supply is often gathered through questionable means," Sperandio said. "Having a third-party vendor only muddies the waters, especially when it's not as clear to the user how the third-party vendor got the data."
But some critics questioned what effect the move would have in a site that counts selling access to its users' information as its biggest moneymaker. Facebook, privacy experts said, nets a vast range of real-time information --- friendships, photos, work histories, interests and consumer tastes, as well as mobile, location and facial-recognition data --- that advertisers view as more current and accurate than the broker information inferred from old receipts and government logs. What, they ask, would advertisers need to pay data brokers for?
但是一些评论家质疑这一举措会对一个网站产生什么影响，该网站将销售用户信息作为其最大的赚钱机构。隐私专家表示，Facebook可以提供广泛的实时信息 - 友情，照片，工作历史，兴趣和消费者口味，以及移动，位置和面部识别数据---广告商认为这些信息更新并且比从旧收据和政府日志推断的经纪人信息准确。他们问，广告商需要为数据经纪人付费吗？
"We don't know enough about Facebook's data trove to know whether their abandonment of Partner Categories helps users avoid privacy invasions," said Frank Pasquale, a University of Maryland professor who specializes in algorithms and privacy. "Even if we did have that knowledge, we have little reason to trust Facebook to actually follow through on it. It may well change course once media attention has gone elsewhere."
"我们对Facebook的数据库知之甚少，不知道他们放弃合作伙伴类别是否有助于用户避免侵犯隐私，"马里兰大学教授，专门研究算法和隐私的Frank Pasquale说。 "即使我们确实掌握了这些知识，我们也没有理由相信Facebook会真正遵循它。一旦媒体的注意力转移到其他地方，它可能会改变方向。"
Elizabeth Dwoskin contributed to this report.