Published: Wed, August 21, 2019
Electronics | By Kelly Massey

Who's tracking you? Facebook users to get more control over data

Who's tracking you? Facebook users to get more control over data

The next time you visit the social network, ads for the shoe website -and any other sites you recently visited-might appear in your News Feed.

Facebook is launching a long-promised tool that lets you limit what the social network can gather about you on outside websites and apps.

"If you clear your off-Facebook activity, we'll remove your identifying information from the data that apps and websites choose to send us", Facebook's chief privacy officer, Erin Egan, wrote in a blog post.

The new Off-Facebook Activity feature will also allow users to stop certain sites sharing their activity with Facebook, however the company confirmed they would not be able to permanently delete the shared data, only disconnect it from their profile.

The tools are being rolled out in Spain, Ireland and South Korea, with additional availability in the coming months, company officials said.

Facebook first announced a transparency tool for users more than a year ago at the F8 Developers Conference in May, 2018. "We expect this could have some impact on our business, but we believe giving people control over their data is more important", Egan added. And lastly, they can disable all off-Facebook activity if they want, "or just for specific apps and websites".

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.

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Facebook said it sought input from users, privacy experts and policymakers along the way, which led to some changes.

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.

Facebook users could soon see fewer familiar ads following them around the internet-but they'd have to work for it.

If you decide on the nuclear option, and request to disconnect all off-site activity from Facebook, the social network will nevertheless still collect the data, but in aggregate form. If the person's device information matches up with a user's Facebook account, the social network can use that data to show ads to that person. The company will continue to retain all browsing data of users on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger.

The privacy scandals that prompted the FTC probe catalysed a broad rethinking across Facebook about the data it makes available to third-party apps and the controls available to users.

There will be three components to the Off-Facebook Activity tool. That could includes websites or apps that your friend visited on their phone or your family browsed on a shared home computer, according to Facebook.

The complexity of the new system - and the previous statements from Facebook executives - threatens to saddle the company with fresh criticism that it didn't keep its previous promises.

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