Here’s a scenario: You opened an airline website to look for flights abroad. It only lasted for about a minute. You then dismissed the idea and went back to your usual routine. But all of a sudden, your Facebook ads changed to either flights or anything travel. Sounds familiar, right? Because you probably experienced this yourself.
So, have you ever wondered why Facebook ads are so accurate? Why do the things that interest you or the plans you had an hour ago are now in your Facebook ads?
Most people believe that Facebook listens to every word they say through their smartphone. In reality, that’s not the case. In fact, the answer is quite simple. Third-party apps and websites (this includes business and organizations) send your data to Facebook using tools like Facebook login or Facebook Pixel.
These data include your activities on their website like what you searched, what topics you clicked, or what item you added to your cart. Facebook’s ad management is pretty intricate that many people are unaware of how it has affected our lives.
Fortunately, you can now see and control which websites are sharing your information. Recently, the social media giant rolled out its Off-Facebook Activity tool. This feature allows users to manage and remove data that third-party apps and websites share with Facebook. The tool was first launched in 2018 during Facebook’s annual developer conference but was only available to select locations and users. Now, users across the globe can use it.
The feature was first introduced as “Clear History”. However, Facebook believes that the name will bring confusion to users as some might think that it will remove all of their data on the social networking site. With the new name, the company thinks that people will better understand its function.
On the other hand, for past years, we aren’t aware of what third-party apps or websites are sharing our data. We’re not talking of one or two apps or sites here but rather almost everything installed. This is even more difficult for mobile. Considering that most smartphone users have more or less 80 apps installed with around 30 apps used monthly.
The Off-Facebook Activity tool allows users to see the summary of the information shared by websites with Facebook. You’ll be surprised at how many websites shared your information. From the ones you frequently visit to those that you just accidentally clicked. The tool also shows your interactions (searching, purchases, clicks, etc.) you perform in their websites or apps.
In addition, you now have the option to stop Facebook from using the information they received to send you tailored ads. Unfortunately, this does not mean that third-party apps and websites will stop sending Facebook your data, it will only prevent the social media site from using it to provide you with ads.
Now, the next question is — how you’ll make use of this tool.
Here are the steps to activate the Off-Facebook Activity tool.
How to use Off-Facebook Activity Tool
1.) For mobile, go to Settings & Privacy and then tap on Settings.
2.) Next, head on to Your Facebook Information section and tap Off-Facebook Activity.
3.) After that, head on to More Options and tap Manage Future Activities. Facebook will require you to input your password.
4.) After it, click the blue toggle. Facebook will prompt a long message about the feature. Notably, the message will tell you that all your Accounts on other websites logged in using Facebook will be logged out. Then, click Turn Off at the bottom part of the message.
That’s it! If you want to see the summary of your information shared, you may go to Manage Your Off-Facebook Activity. You may also have the option to Clear History. However, we do not suggest this as it’s not that helpful as it will only remove your knowledge of the information Facebook received but it will still be used by Facebook.
The Off-Facebook Activity feature is definitely not the answer to all our privacy concerns. However, it is a great move towards more transparency in our data and improving control over third-party tracking. Especially after all the recent Facebook scandals in the last few years. In fact, over 700,000 Filipinos were affected by the Facebook data breach in the past which involved a total of 50 million accounts.
Undeniably, we are still far behind when it comes to data privacy. We still need stronger laws to regulate the use of information to protect users’ interests. For now, we see this as a leap forward and we hope other sites will also follow suit.