Control the data you share via ‘Off-Facebook Activity’

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After years of apologetic policy changes and a number of punitive regulations against the popular social media platform, Facebook, the tech giant said Tuesday that they are giving users more control of their data called Off-Facebook Activity.

In a blog post penned by Erin Egan, Chief Privacy Officer, Policy, and David Baser, Director of Product Management in Facebook, the social media platform will now allow users to view and see the data that is being shared between Facebook and third-party applications and websites that are connected to Facebook.

“To help shed more light on these practices that are common yet not always well understood, today we’re introducing a new way to view and control your off-Facebook activity,” Egan said in a blog post.

Off-Facebook activity is a newly introduced feature in Facebook that allows users to view and control what data are being sent to the servers of the social media platform from other sites and apps that are connected to Facebook. The feature will also give users the option to delete the data if they feel that deleting them is necessary.

Facebook said that the launching of this new feature is part of the updates they made in their bid to improve transparency and privacy in the social media platform. Off-Facebook Activity is next to the earlier launched features by the Silicon Valley-based company such as updates to their Ad Library, updates to “Why am I seeing this ad?” and the launch of a new feature called “Why am I seeing this post?“.

“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,” explains Egan in the blog post.

The new feature allows users to see a summary of the information other apps and websites have sent Facebook through their online business tools, like Facebook Pixel or Facebook Login. It will also enable users to “disconnect” all information that is being sent to Facebook at the user’s discretion.

Facebook also offers the service to users who wish to disconnect information sharing from all websites or choose specific websites where Facebook should not obtain information from.

When a user decides to clear off-Facebook activity, the company will remove identifying information from the data that apps and websites choose to send. By doing this, Facebook will no longer be able to see user data such as location, IP Address, recent online behavior, among others.

“We won’t know which websites you visited or what you did there, and we won’t use any of the data you disconnect to target ads to you on Facebook, Instagram, or Messenger. We expect this could have some impact on our business, but we believe giving people control over their data is more important,” Egan added.

It is worth noting, according to Facebook, that when a user visits Off-Facebook activity, they will be able to see the different sites and apps they use, but they will also see some services that they might not recognize. The company says that this could be because someone else accessed certain websites using their phones or they are sharing a computer for the entire family.

For the early days of the feature, Facebook is only launching the Off-Facebook Activity to select countries like Ireland, South Korea, and Spain. The San Francisco tech superpower said that they would continue rolling out the feature to other territories in the coming months.

Facebook prides that this feature is new and one-of-its-kind and that they have “no template to follow,” suggesting that they built it from scratch. “We also conducted months of research to get input from people, privacy advocates, policymakers, advertisers, and industry groups. We made important changes in response to what we learned,” they said.

Other Facebook partners are supportive of the new Facebook feature saying that they won’t mind even if it would affect their ad targeting. Unilever, one of the world’s biggest consumer product company, said that it is part of their corporate social responsibility.

“As part of Unilever’s Responsibility Framework, we are committed to creating a better digital ecosystem working with our partners. The Off-Facebook Activity tool aims to provide people with greater transparency and control over their own data, helping to improve their online experience. We support this step from Facebook and encourage them and all industry players to continue on the journey to build back trust in the advertising ecosystem,” said Luis Di Como, EVP Global Media, Unilever.

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