(TNS) — Almost everyone who has used Facebook has had the unsettling experience of seeing ads on the social network that make it seem as though a conversation was overheard. Now the company has rolled out a feature that could put an end to that.
Off-Facebook Activity lets users control whether data collected as the result of using websites and third-party apps is pulled into Facebook and associated with their accounts. The feature lets them disconnect all such activity from their accounts, but not necessarily delete the data. Users can also prevent such activity from being collected in the future, either in general or per site or app.
The feature is the result of Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s pledge to be more transparent about how data is used, and to give its users more control over what’s collected in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
The new feature, which is buried in privacy settings on both the desktop and mobile versions of Facebook, gives users multiple options for what happens with data Facebook can collect on users when they are using other apps or sites.
Facebook works with online advertising networks that place ads on websites and in apps. Those networks include code that can identify Facebook users and track their activity. The actions they take are then pulled into Facebook and used to help personalize ads and may even determine stories that are shown in a user’s News Feed. It also may impact the ads you see in sites away from Facebook.
For example, if you shop for a car on an automakers’ website, you may start seeing ads in your News Feed for cars. These ads may also follow you as you use the web or third-party apps.
The new Off-Facebook Activity tool allows users to turn off this flow of information and disconnect the existing pool of data from their accounts. On a web page describing the new tool, Facebook says doing this won’t prevent users from seeing ads, but that “the ads that you will see may be less personalized to you.”
Among the things the tool lets users do:
- See a list of sites and apps that have funneled activity data to Facebook, and prevent them from doing so in the future.
- Clear the history of past data that has been collected off of Facebook.
- View and control the information Facebook has collected based on category.
- Download the information generated by your activity both on and off Facebook.
The latter two items have been available on Facebook for a while, but are now included on the Off-Facebook Activity page.
The tool is available on the web version of Facebook at facebook.com/off_facebook_activity/. On the mobile app, click the three-bar menu icon, then Settings & Privacy > Privacy Shortcuts. Scroll down to Your Facebook Information and tap “View or clear your off-Facebook activity”.
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