Facebook unveils new tools to control how websites share your data for ad-targeting

Facebook unveils new tools to control how websites share your data for ad-targeting

Last year, Facebook  CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company would be creating a “Clear History” feature that deletes the data that third-party websites and apps share with Facebook. Today, the company is actually launching feature in select countries.

It’s gotten a new name in the meantime: Off-Facebook Activity. David Baser, the director of product management leading Facebook’s privacy and data use team, told that the name should make it clear to everyone “exactly what kind of data” is being disclosed here.

In a demo video, Baser showed me how a user could bring up a list of everyone sending data to Facebook, and then tap on specific app or website to learn what data is being shared. If you decide that you don’t like this data-sharing, you can block it, either on a website and app level, or across-the-board.

Facebook has of course been facing greater issues over data-sharing over the past couple years, thanks to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. This, along with concerns about misinformation spreading on the platform, has led the company to launch a number of new transparency tools around advertising and content.

In this case, Facebook isn’t deleting the data that a third party might have collected about your behavior. Instead, it’s removing the connection between that data and your personal information on Facebook (any old data associated with an account is deleted as well).

Baser said that disconnecting your off-Facebook activity will have the immediate effect of logging you out of any website or app where you used your Facebook login. More broadly, he argued that maintaining this connection benefits both consumers and businesses, because it leads to more specific advertising — if you were looking at a specific type of shoe on a retailer’s website, Facebook could then show you ads for those shoes.

Still, Baser said, “We at Facebook want people to know this is happening.” So it’s not hiding these options away deep within a hidden menu, but making them accessible from the main settings page.

He also suggested that no other company has tried to create this kind of “comprehensive platform” for letting users control their data, so Facebook to figure out the right approach that wouldn’t overhwhelm or confuse users. For example, he said, “Every single aspect of this product follows the principle of progressive disclosure” — so you get with a high-level overview at first, but can see more information as you move deeper into the tools.


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Susan Hairston

Susan Hairston is the most unlikely to be mistaken for the techno whiz that she actually is! Her frame and appearance tend to lead people to assume that she conforms to stereotypical behavior by a lady, but truly, her interests lie in all things tech! She leads the way when it comes to reviewing software updates, patching better versions into existing apps, and writing articles which focus on the impact, a certain technology will have on the world! In her downtime, she can be found coding away at her computer!
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