Facebook users can now stop app tracking their data

  • Facebook has launched the Off-Facebook Activity tool, which allows users to stop other apps and businesses sharing their data to the social network.

    The tool lets users see which apps and businesses are sending the data they have collected from the user to Facebook. The user can then disconnect this data from their account using a new “clear history” button, however this does not delete the information entirely as the term may suggest.

    According to Sky News, Facebook told journalists that “clear history” had the same meaning as clearing one’s history on a browser such as Google Chrome or Firefox, which removes the cookies used to track people’s activity across the web. Cookies are used by advertisers to target audiences. For example, if you search up flights to Spain on your home browser, cookies will enable other advertisements for flights or similar services/products to pop up on other websites you visit. Apps send this data to Facebook for this reason of effective advertising, and vice versa, Facebook uses said data for the same reason also.

    Facebook have confirmed that once these third party apps and businesses are disconnected, they will remain that way indefinitely unless changed by the user again. The tool, which can be found in the "Your Facebook Information" of Facebook's settings, is being released today in Ireland, South Korea, and Spain. Facebook says the roll-out will be completed globally "over the coming months".

    In December 2018 the campaign group, Privacy International Fund found a number of popular Android apps regularly shared customer data with Facebook, allowing the social network to track users, non-users and logged-out users outside its platform.

    In response, the group’s corporate exploitation lead, Frederike Kaltheuner found this new tool by Facebook to be "very positive" but questioned why it was not the default: "If Facebook is serious about privacy, they should configure the tools and products that apps and websites use in such a way that they don't automatically leak data." In other words, if you don’t want your data to be automatically shard to Facebook, you have to opt out of Off-Facebook Activity manually.

    By limiting its own ability to track users, Facebook is potentially restricting its ability to make money through highly-targeted advertising. In a blog post, the company said: "We expect this could have some impact on our business, but we believe giving people control over their data is more important."

    Social media regulation is increasingly becoming a more prominent issue within the UK, with the government recently assigning Ofcom to crack down on online tech giants for showing potentially harmful videos. It is expected and hoped by many members of the public that this is only the beginning of more regulatory measures to be put in place, but others fear that regulations may not be practically possibly to technically implement. 


    Source: Sky News

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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