Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced today that a new privacy tool called Off-Facebook Activity is now available to Facebook users around the globe.
Designed to improve transparency, Off-Facebook Activity provides information about data that third-party businesses share with Facebook. Facebook uses the provided information to show advertisement to its users, for suggestions, e.g. groups or businesses, or to help organizations “understand how their website, app, or ads are performing”.
The tool provides a summary of the information and an option to clear it from the Facebook account.
Off-Facebook Activity should be available in desktop and mobile versions of Facebook. Facebook users need to open the Settings of the service and select “Your Facebook Information” from the left column and then “Off-Facebook Activity” on the page that opens.
Tip: you can open the page directly as well using this link: https://www.facebook.com/off_facebook_activity/
A click on the link opens a summary and information. It starts with a list of companies or applications that shared data with Facebook. These are just examples and may not reflect the full list of companies and apps that shared data with Facebook.
The page provides an explanation that includes an example
- Jane buys a pair of shoes from an online clothing and shoe store.
- The store shares Jane’s activity with us using our business tools.
- We receive Jane’s off-Facebook activity and we save it with her Facebook account. The activity is saved as “visited the Clothes and Shoes website” and “made a purchase”.
- Jane sees an ad on Facebook for a 10% off coupon on her next shoe or clothing purchase from the online store.
More interesting that the summary or the description is the “what you can do” section. If lists the following options:
- Manage your Off-Facebook Activity — (requires the account password on desktop). Lists apps and websites that shared information with Facebook. Each is listed with a name and when the information was received. You can click on any item to display details, e.g. how many interactions were shared, and settings to turn off future activity for that particular company, or to give feedback.
- Clear History — The option disconnects the data from the account but does not prevent Facebook from receiving future data. Also note that Facebook uses the term “disconnect” and not delete or remove; this suggests that the data may not be deleted outright or at all.
- Access your information — A list of information that is categorized by Facebook; not necessarily relevant to Off-Facebook Activity.
- Download your information — An option to download information that Facebook has about your account and your activity.
- Manage Future Activity — An option to turn off Off-Facebook Activity entirely to prevent the linking of third-party data with the Facebook account in the future. Also provides options to manage individual items that you have blocked using “Manage your Off-Facebook Activity”.
If you don’t want Facebook to use third-party data and associate with your account, you need to do two things:
- Clear the History.
- Disable Off-Facebook Activity.
Note that Facebook linked the Future Activity option to its login system. A warning is displayed to users who click on the turn-off option that doing so will prevent the user from “logging into apps and websites with Facebook”.
The Off-Facebook Activity tool may be an eye-opener to some users as it lists apps, websites, and companies that may have shared data with Facebook. Sharing does not necessarily mean that the data was sold to Facebook but it is possible that this was the case.
Now You: What is your take on Facebook’s latest privacy initiative?