Facebook launches Off-Facebook Activity tool to increase users control over their data

Facebook is offering its users the ability to see and control the data that other apps and websites share with it.

Off-Facebook Activity lets users see a summary of the apps and websites that send information to Facebook about their activity, and clear this information from their account if they wish to, in order to prevent being retargeted with ads for things they have looked at on other sites.

Off-Facebook Activity enables Facebook users to see a summary of the information other apps and websites have sent Facebook through its online business tools, like Facebook Pixel or Facebook Login, where people log in to other apps and sites using their Facebook credentials; disconnect this information from their account if they want to; and choose to disconnect future off-Facebook activity from their account. Users can do this for all of their off-Facebook activity, or just for specific apps and websites.

Although the data is disconnected rather than deleted, Facebook is labelling the process of disconnecting it ‘Clear History’, a clear nod to the feature of the same name found on web browsers. Facebook originally announced the tool at its F8 developer conference in May.

In a blog post explaining the move, Erin Egan, chief privacy officer, policy, and David Baser, director of product management, use the example of a clothing website that wants to show ads to people who are interested in a new style of shoes. They explain how the website can send information to Facebook saying someone on a particular device looked at those shoes, then if that device information matches someone’s Facebook account, Facebook can show ads about those shoes to that person.

The post goes on to explain that if a user clears their off-Facebook activity, Facebook will remove the identifying information from the data that apps and websites choose to send it. “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,” the post says. “We expect this could have some impact on our business, but we believe giving people control over their data is more important.”

The blog post also quotes Luis Di Como, EVP global media at Unilever, who says:

“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 in the journey to build back trust in the advertising ecosystem.”
The feature is launching initially in Ireland, South Korea and Spain, but will be rolled out everywhere over the coming months.