Twitter announced Wednesday that it would be banishing third-party data providers from the ad platform, pushing advertisers to buy their own consumer information outside its walls if they want it for targeting ads.
On Wednesday, Twitter said it would stop integrating with third-party data providers, like Acxiom, Oracle Data Cloud, Epsilon and others, which have vast reserves of consumer data broken down into target audiences for advertisers. The targets identify people based on age, gender, income, family status and other characteristics.
Twitter now joins Facebook in creating some distance with these types of data-hoarding companies, which have been under more scrutiny as lawmakers and regulators focus on privacy concerns surrounding the digital ad ecosystem.
In 2018, Facebook ended its third-party data integration, following the exposure of Cambridge Analytica, a developer that misappropriated 87 million user profiles on the social network. Also, in 2018, Europe implemented its General Data Protection Regulation law, which cracked down on third-party data, forcing advertisers and platforms to get direct consent from consumers to use their data. U.S. lawmakers are considering similar rules, and California has already passed its own privacy regulations.
Platforms are trying to shift the responsibility for third-party data to the advertisers by making them work directly with the providers. The advertisers can then bring the target audiences into the platforms.
The inhospitable climate has shaken up the data ecosystem in the past year. IPG bought Acxiom for $2.3 billion last year. In April, Publicis acquired Epsilon for $4.4 billion. Brands have scrambled to come up with new ways of collecting data on consumers so that they can call it “first-party,” showing they have direct consent to apply that information for marketing and other services.
“This move by Twitter is another illustration why marketers need to find ways to establish first-party data sets,” says Brian Wieser, GroupM’s global president of business intelligence.
The Wall Street Journal was first to report on Twitter’s changing data policies. Twitter declined an interview for this story but said in a statement that it was shifting focus from third-party data providers in favor of its internal ads API—application programming interface.
The ads API is a platform for marketing technology partners to integrate into Twitter and use data tools for targeting.
“Twitter is streamlining the way in which advertisers use audience data and shifting focus to the Twitter Ads API, which ultimately improves outcomes through technological advancement and developmental flexibility for our partners and customers," a Twitter spokeswoman wrote in an e-mail statement.
Also on Wednesday, Twitter disclosed that it mishandled consumer data, saying it may have shown people ads based on information collected from their online behavior outside its service.
Twitter described in a blog post that it was able to connect people to email addresses they never shared with its service, which enabled it to “infer” characteristics about those users that was helpful in ad targeting.
Twitter did not say how many people were affected by its data lapses.
“You trust us to follow your choices and we failed here,” the company said in the blog post. “We’re sorry this happened and are taking steps to make sure we don’t make a mistake like this again.”