Friday, 21 February, 2020

Facebook will let users see what companies track you

Screenshots of Facebook's new feature as displayed on a smartphone screen allowing users to see information collected on them from elsewhere The new feature will allow users to anonymise their data – but not delete it Credit Facebook
Cecil Davis | 21 August, 2019, 08:43

The company said the tool would also help users to understand why they sometimes saw confusing ads pop up, as websites may have shared data from times when other people or family members were using their phone or computer.

The social media giant said the new tools to control "Off-Facebook Activity" are created to "shed more light" on a form of online tracking - around shopping habits, web-browsing histories and other activities - that determines some of the ads people see on Facebook. It's only rolling out to Ireland, South Korea and Spain, and other regions will see it in the "coming months" as Facebook gauges its reliability.

"If this were widely adopted, it would mean less overall revenue for Facebook", David Baser, a director of product management at the company, said in an interview.

The company's resulting settlement with the Federal Trade Commission ultimately yielded a US$5 billion fine - a record for a privacy violation - along with two decades of heightened oversight from the company's government regulators.

The world's largest social media giant collects a trove of information about the 2.4 billion people who log into its site every month, allowing businesses to better target ads at potential customers.

In the quarter ended June 30, Facebook made almost US$17 billion from ad sales. Since you use several different apps and websites each month, it can be really hard to keep track of who has information about you and what it's used for.

"I think the impact from this new functionality will also be manageable for the business".

Yet by giving people the option of wiping clean their browsing history outside Facebook and its apps, the company is taking a risk because of its partial dependence on such information for targeting ads at users.

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How the Off-Facebook Activity tool works. Facebook officials previously said users could "delete this information from your account", a pledge that might have led users to believe Facebook would remove it entirely.

After seeking out the tool in your account settings, you will have the option to clear all browsing data from your account, and to choose to disconnect future data tracking abilities on your account. At the time, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company was working on "Clear History" tool that would let users clear their browsing history on the platform and see all the apps they had interacted with.

Formerly known as "clear history", the tool will now go by the slightly clunkier moniker "off-Facebook activity".

The new tool appears to be the latest response to the backlash Facebook has received after it was discovered that the company allowed the consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to allegedly misuse the data for 50 million of its users. But it won't change the actual number of ads a person will see on Facebook.

Did you ever browse online for a new jacket, and later discover ads for jackets on Facebook?

You'll be able to access the feature by going to your Facebook settings and scrolling down to "your Facebook information".

It allows users clear this information from their account if they want to, and it lets users disconnect future off-Facebook activity from their account.