We all know that Facebook is watching us. It knows what we like, what we don’t like, and it uses that information to show us ads. But did you know that Facebook is also tracking you, even when you’re not on their site? It’s true!
Facebook has a tool called the Off-Facebook Activity Tool that allows them to track your activity on other websites and apps. But there’s a way to stop them. Here’s how.
Facebook has been the subject of significant criticism about its approach to privacy. Now the company is trying to rebuild trust with its users. One way it is doing this is by introducing tools that let users see their own Facebook data and take more control over this data. The Off-Facebook Activity tool allows users to control what data Facebook receives from other apps and services.
There are two ways that Facebook gathers data about you. Firstly, through the information you give Facebook directly. This is information such as your name and the interests which you enter into the Facebook website or app.
The second way Facebook gathers data is through sites that use Facebook functions like the Like button, the option to log in with Facebook, or through an invisible piece of code called a Facebook Pixel. That’s why, after you browse Amazon looking for something like a toaster, your Facebook page is suddenly full of ads for the same toaster.
The Off-Facebook Activity tool gives you more control over this second type of data. It lets you see a summary of the data that Facebook has collected from other apps and websites and disconnect this information from your Facebook account.
What Kind of Data Does Facebook Collect?
The answer to this question will likely depend on how much you use Facebook and how many other apps and websites you use that are connected to Facebook.
In general, Facebook collects data about your activity on other websites and apps in order to show you more relevant ads. This data includes information such as the types of products you’ve viewed, the website or app you were using, and whether or not you made a purchase.
To use the Off-Facebook Activity tool, start by logging in to the Facebook app on your device. Then go to Settings & privacy > Settings > Privacy > Your Facebook Information. Here, in the Your Facebook Information section there should be an option for Off-Facebook Activity. Click this to bring up the tool.
On the mobile app, the Off-Facebook Activity tool is found on the main settings page, which you can access by tapping the gear icon in the main menu.
In the Your Off-Facebook Activity section you’ll see information about what the tool does, followed by a list of icons showing the apps and websites which have sent data to Facebook in the past. Beneath this are several options for controlling this data.
If you click on View and Manage Activity you can see a full list of all the apps and websites that have shared your activity with Facebook. In the list you will see an icon, the title of the website, the date at which data from that source was last received, and a number next to the icon showing how many times your activity has been shared.
Clicking on it shows you a full list of all the apps and websites that have shared your activity with Facebook. In the list you will see an icon, the title of the website, the date at which data from that source was last received, and a number next to the icon showing how many times your activity has been shared.
To clear all this information so it is no longer linked to your Facebook account, click the Clear History button. Next you can also go to the Disconnect future activity (from the Off-Facebook activity page) section and set the slider for Future Off-Facebook Activity to off to stop Facebook tracking your activities in the future.
The tool anonymizes your browsing data so it is no longer linked to your Facebook account. It should take effect within 48 hours, according to a Facebook engineering blog post. However, an important caveat about this tool is that it will not actually delete your data. It will disconnect the data from your Facebook profile, but it won’t allow you to delete your browsing information.
Facebook still collects information from third-party apps and services. But now it assigns a unique ID to each activity report instead of linking it to your name. Facebook continues to harvest data but now keeps it anonymously.
While this is certainly an improvement in terms of privacy, it still means that Facebook has access to vast quantities of data about your internet activities from apps and sites across the web. Even if you don’t have a Facebook account, Facebook can still collect information about you from any site using features like the Facebook Like button or the Facebook Pixel.
How Can You Secure Your Facebook Data?
If you want to remove your data from Facebook, it’s going to take more work. You can start by going to Facebook Ad Preferences. Here you can see the profile Facebook has built of you and your interests based on all the data it has access to. You can also go to Facebook settings and download a copy of the data that Facebook has on you. But be warned: the downloaded file will likely be huge.
The very best way to remove your data from Facebook, however, is to delete your account. If you deactivate your account, it won’t erase your personal data. Deleting your account will remove most but not all of your data. To learn more about what happens when you delete your account, see our guide to what deactivating or deleting Facebook really means for privacy.
Take Control of Your Facebook Data
The Off-Facebook activity tool gives you some measure of control over how your data is shared with Facebook. However, it won’t actually delete your data. So if you want to be sure your data isn’t being misused, it’s best to remove it from Facebook altogether.
Controlling the data that Facebook collects about you isn’t only important for your personal privacy and security. It can also have a big effect on society as a whole.