Facebook uses many tools to track people across the Internet, whether they have an account with the social networking site or not, and most of them rely on the online activity data other apps and websites share with Facebook.
Everything we do online generates an extensive amount of behavioral data, from buying clothes to looking for hotels, which apps and websites often share with advertising companies, allowing them to build more accurate profiles of your interests and needs.
However, after facing worldwide criticism over privacy and data breach controversies, Facebook last summer announced a privacy tool, called Off-Facebook Activity, which gives users more control of their data collected by Facebook.
Starting today on Data Privacy Day 2020, the Off-Facebook Activity feature is now available to every user around the world, which was initially made only available to users in Ireland, South Korea, and Spain for testing.
Initially introduced as "Clear History," the tool offers users a clear summary of what information Facebook holds on you based on other apps you used or websites you've visited and also lets you delete it from your account if you want to.
"Other businesses send us information about your activity on their sites, and we use that information to show you ads that are relevant to you. Now you can see a summary of that information and clear it from your account if you want to."
How to Use Off-Facebook Activity Tool?
However, it's important to note that the feature doesn't actually allow users to delete their browsing information from Facebook servers; instead, it simply lets users dissociate collected data from their Facebook account.
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For example, I tried it and found that over 1000 apps and websites had shared my online activity with Facebook in the past 180 days, many of which are news, banking, and healthcare organizations, and even LinkedIn.
To access Off-Facebook Activity tool:
- Go to 'Settings & Privacy' in your Facebook app,
- Select 'Off-Facebook Activity,'
- On the next screen, you are provided with a list of all the websites and apps that had shared your data with Facebook.
- You can choose specific apps to see how many interactions you had with them.
- You can download activity details by clicking on the number of interactions and clicking Download Activity Details at the bottom of the popup.
- If you're very concerned about the data that Facebook holds on you, it's worth clearing your history by clicking on the 'Clear History.'
It should also be noted that after using the "clear history" option, you will be logged out of certain websites you have accessed using your Facebook account.
Besides this, clearing history doesn't stop third-parties from future data-sharing, and there's another option, called 'Manage Future Activity,' which also doesn't restrict Facebook from receiving your activity data from the businesses in the future. It's just, the new information won't be associated with your account.
Still, it's a remarkable step forward towards transparency and control, as Facebook rivals such as Google don't offer anything comparable to the "Off-Facebook Activity" page.