Facebook will probably never relinquish its grasp over your private data, but there is now a way to see who's feeding them data, even when you're not using Facebook. It's called Off-Facebook Activity.
In response to major privacy concerns, Facebook launched a new setting tool that shows users where else they’re being tracked. It’s a drop of privacy in a sea of privacy violations, but the gesture should still be celebrated. Let’s take a look at how it works and what you can and can’t do with it.
There can be a lot of information to sort through and large data files to download if you should choose to, so we recommend browsing these options on a desktop or laptop.
This page will provide Facebook users with tons of information about where their information is being gathered outside of Facebook. Personally, I was surprised and even shocked when I learned that certain apps and websites I used were regularly sending my data to Facebook.
We suggest exploring the different options and functions that are available. However, there were a few key features that jumped out at me.
It’s not the easiest data to access, but you can see a breakdown of what certain apps and sites are sending to Facebook. To do so:
Downloading the data is half the battle. Once you unzip the folder and dig down to the your_off-facebook_activity folder, you’ll find a folder filled with numbered HTML files. If you can’t search their content for the partner you want, count down the list of partners on Facebook's list until you count to the one you want. The order and numbers of the HTML files you downloaded should coincide with the order of the data partners on Facebook’s list.
The data under each entry will vary, but they all contain an ID number, an event label, and the date on which the data was received. There may be more data represented here than meets the eye. Some event labels were self explanatory, like VIEW_CONTENT, while others were simply named CUSTOM.
According to Facebook’s developer guide, “Custom events are actions that fall outside those covered by our standard events, and you can give them a unique name to represent the action taking place.” Which of your actions these events track is anybody’s guess.
Your data is just too valuable for Facebook to leave on the table, so there’s no way they’d let you completely prevent your off-Facebook data from being gathered. The only thing you can do here is prevent your data from being associated with your account. It will still be gathered as anonymized general data. Your existing data won’t be downloaded either – it will simply be decoupled from your account.
There are privacy browser extensions that can completely prevent that data from being collected online, but you’ll have few options short of boycott when it comes to apps.
Given the massive amount of data facebook gathers, this change is minor. However, there are a few great insights this tool provides:
Again, what’s also telling is that Facebook refuses to stop collecting this data. All they’ve agreed to do is anonymize it. That doesn’t mean that this isn’t a valuable new feature. We definitely recommend you take advantage of it.
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