It isn’t a surprise that Facebook has collected billions of dollars worth of data on its users. Sadly, this isn’t even news anymore. However, some users might be surprised to know that the company has quietly collected information on users from across the web, not just on its services.
That means that data from shopping websites, news articles, and even porn sites that users visit links to their profile on Facebook’s back end. Now, a long-awaited tool from the company will allow users to see all of the data it has on them.
Here’s how to find and use the new tool…
First announced more than a year ago, the tool called “Off-Facebook Activity” (originally named Clear History) is finally rolling out. The feature will allow users to view and manage the external data Facebook has collected on them. Users will also have the option of opting-out of this collection in the future. Whether or not that means anything remains to be seen.
Off-Facebook Activity will first roll out to users in Ireland, South Korea, and Spain, per a BuzzFeed News report. The tool is located under the account settings page under the title of “Off-Facebook Activity.” It is refreshing to see the company put the feature in such an obvious position considering the rest of its privacy settings are buried in sub-menu after sub-menu.
Once inside the tool, users can see third-party websites they’ve visited that share information with Facebook. Considering that a third of all websites are connected to a Facebook tracker, the list will likely be extensive.
From there, users can turn off future tracking and/or stop certain websites from sharing data with Facebook. Users will also have the ability to “disassociate” the data collected on them from their account. It is important to note that this isn’t the same as deleting the data. Facebook will still retain it anonymously. However, it will no longer link to the user’s profile.
Changes made from the Off-Facebook Activity tool will impact data collection across the company’s suite of products—including Instagram and Messenger.
The Right Thing
Following its many scandals, Facebook’s move to release the tool seems like it may finally be taking a step in the right direction. Some claim that it’s more of a publicity stunt and not an indication that the company is changing its ways.
However, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said in a statement, “We believe deeply that doing the right thing for people on our service is the only way to protect our long-term business. And it is the right thing to do.”
Though people opting out of data collection will likely harm Facebook’s bottom line by negatively impacting ad targeting, it is, indeed, the right thing to do. Hopefully, users will take advantage of the new feature to help keep their online life a little more private.