Facebook has announced the release of a new tool to help you track where your information is going once you put it on their site.
Exactly what the websites we share our personal data with are doing with it has become a pressing issue in recent years.
From the Cambridge Analytica scandal to the numerous high profile hacks which have seen customers’ personal details stolen, cyber safety has emerged as something we all need to worry about in our increasingly online lives.
With the new ‘Off-Facebook Activity’ tool, it should become easier to keep tabs on where at least some of your information is ending up.
Here’s everything you need to know.
Have you ever wondered how Facebook seems to know so much about you? Picture: Shutterstock
How does Off-Facebook Activity work?
Facebook has described its new addition as a tool which “gives you more control of your data”, emphasising the idea that each individual should be responsible for how their data is used.
We have all that unsettling feeling where we log on to Facebook and are bombarded with adverts for things we were just looking at on other websites. This is possible because our online activity generates data which is then fed back to Facebook, allowing for tailor-made adverts for each user.
It breaks things down into two steps - ‘You See It’ and ‘You Control It’.
The first allows you to access an account of all the information Facebook is currently receiving about your activity on other websites and apps. A word of warning - you may be shocked to find just how widely Facebook has thrown its net when it comes to learning about you.
The second allows you to pick which information you want to disconnect from your account, ensuring that it will no longer be associated with your profile. There is also a button that will prevent any of your future off-Facebook activity from being linked to your account.
Adverts are the reason much of the internet, including Facebook, is still free to use. Picture: Shutterstock
Does this mean that Facebook will no longer track my online activity?
In a word, no.
The Off-Facebook Activity tool does not mean that the data itself is no longer being collected, even if you disconnect every single site from your account and change your settings so that none of your future activity is used to inform the adverts that you see on Facebook.
Using the new tool simply means that data from other sites and apps won’t be used by Facebook to guide the adverts which you see there.
The Off-Facebook Activity tool also doesn’t mean you will see fewer adverts, no matter how rigorous you are with your settings - just that the ads you see won’t have been targeted specifically at you using your online data.
Essentially, Facebook’s activity to harvest information about anyone it wants from anywhere it wants hasn’t been changed, but at least now you can control one element of what the information is used for.
When will it be available?
After being announced back in August, the new tool was finally launched on Tuesday 28 January 2020.
Facebook users will find it in the ‘Settings’ tab on their account.