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Some Marketers Are Cutting Back on Third-Party Data

Third-party data is becoming less attractive for some marketers.

In an August survey of 324 US marketers conducted by Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, American Marketing Association (AMA) and Deloitte, about six in 10 respondents said that over the past two years, they haven't changed the amount of third-party data they use. However, 9.4% said they've decreased their third-party data usage. And over the next two years, 11.4% anticipate that they'll use less third-party data.

To be clear, third-party data is still regularly utilized by many marketers who see value in it. Nearly a third of those polled said that over the past two years, they've increased the amount of third-party data they use. And Interpublic Group recently purchased data aggregator Acxiom for $2.3 billion.

But over the past two years, a few events within the marketing industry have dampened some people’s excitement about third-party data.

The browsers that people use to surf the internet are cracking down on third-party data. In the summer of 2017, Apple’s Safari browser made tracking users through cookies harder by deleting third-party cookies after one day. In February 2018, Google's Chrome launched a built-in ad blocker, which weeds out intrusive and annoying ads. And last week, Mozilla announced that its Firefox browser begin to automatically block ad trackers.

Facebook has also contributed to a third-party data crunch. After its scandal with Cambridge Analytica started gaining momentum, Facebook announced it was shutting down its Partner Categories product, which enables third-party data providers to offer their targeting services and data directly on the platform. Facebook is replacing Partner Categories with another product that allows third-party data brokers to work with advertisers on Facebook. But the newer product places the responsibility for data protection on marketers.

Then of course there is the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which became enforceable in May and states that people’s data can only be used if they give a company explicit permission. Because many marketing tech vendors don’t have direct relationships with users, they often rely on third-party data that’s obtained without user consent. That’s why many marketers worry that their vendors will leave them exposed to GDPR fines.