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Facebook’s new privacy tool doesn’t let users control their in-app activity

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  • 4 min read

Facebook has launched ‘Off-Facebook Activity’ tool that lets users view and control the data about them shared with the social network by other companies.

Moving forward, users will be able to see a summary of the apps and websites that send their data to Facebook and also be able to clear that information with the ‘clear history’ option. Facebook says that this tool is aimed at increasing transparency on the platform and adds to the ‘why am I seeing this ad?’ and ‘why am I seeing this post?

However, Facebook doesn’t show users all of the data that the platform receives and says this is done for “technical and accuracy reasons”. The activity that isn’t shown includes things added to a shopping cart or information collected when the user isn’t logged into Facebook, among others.

Most of this data emerges from businesses and organisations advertising on Facebook and targeting people by parameters such as age, interests, among hundreds of others. It’s important to note that even if users disconnect from Off-Facebook activity, they’ll still be shown ads depended on their activity on Facebook like liking a business page.

Currently, the tool is being rolled out in Ireland, South Korea and Spain. It will be available in other countries worldwide over the coming months.

“Imagine a clothing website wants to show ads to people who are interested in a new style of shoes. They can send information to Facebook, saying someone on a particular device looked at those shoes. If that device information matches someone’s Facebook account, we can show ads about those shoes to that person,” Facebook explains.

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What exactly does Off-Facebook Activity let users do?

  • Users will be able to see a summary of the data that’s sent to Facebook by apps and websites via the available business tools such as Facebook Pixel, Facebook SDK and Facebook Login.
  • Users will be able to “disconnect” the information they see from their account
  • And most importantly, users can opt-out of future off-Facebook activity specifically for apps and websites or entirely.

Kind of information received by Facebook

Facebook's new privacy tool doesn't let users control their in-app activity
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Facebook received the following sets of data from apps and websites, which mainly include user interaction details.

  • Opening an app
  • Logging into an app with Facebook
  • Viewing content
  • Searching for an item
  • Adding an item to the shopping cart
  • Making a purchase
  • Making a donation

User activity doesn’t surface on this tool immediately and may take a few days before you start seeing them. The date specified in the summary is the date that Facebook received that information, not the source.

What happens if users clear their Off-Facebook Activity?

  • Upon clearing, Facebook will remove the user’s identifying information from the data sent to them by other apps and websites.
  • Facebook will stop tracking your activity across other websites and apps and won’t use any of the removed data to target users for ads on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger.
  • If users disconnect their history entirely from the tool, all of the information, including what isn’t shown to them, will be disconnected.

“We expect this could have some impact on our business, but we believe giving people control over their data is more important.”

The company also says that it’s possible that users see names of websites that they don’t visit and that could be due to a couple of factors including someone else using your phone to search something or because you share a computer at home. Other than that, it’s also possible that some of your data was sent by a data service provider or a marketing agency.

Also read: What is Formjacking, how it works and protective measures



Writes news mostly and edits almost everything at Candid.Technology. He loves taking trips on his bikes or chugging beers as Manchester United battle rivals. Contact Prayank via email: