You have probably heard the saying, “If a product is free, it means you are the product.” The internet saying is particularly true in the case of Facebook. Reporting $12.97 billion in revenue in the last quarter of 2017, the social networking giant is not only limited to messaging, it is rather the world’s second biggest online advertising company after Google. The terms and conditions mentioned on Facebook are a giant lie. They are purposely misleading, too long and too broad.
The Off-Facebook activity tool launched in August 2019 can help you understand what third party sites and apps share data with Facebook about your activities. Facebook not only logs what you are doing when you visit the website but it also interacts with other third party sites and apps. The third party sites share information about your online activities using your Facebook ID. Many sites that log the searches and purchases also share the data with Facebook.
There are three ways Facebook collects data from third party sites. The first is Facebook Pixel. The piece of code logs all activities on any site that embeds it and sends it to Facebook. Facebook SDK is another way which allows developers to create apps. The last is Facebook Login, the feature extensively used by websites and mobile apps to offer easy login option for its users.
Off-Facebook tool can help you control the data that platform knows about you. You can find the tool at the top right on Facebook web interface. Select ‘Your Facebook Information’ in the left sidebar. You will find Off-Facebook Activity option halfway down the menu.
The function shows a list of apps and sites that have shared information about your online activities and the last time when you visited them. There is a number next to each item indicating how many interactions that the app or site has reported to Facebook. You can click on every single item by expanding the Activity Details pane.
While Facebook is giving access to this layer of data, it does not reveal exactly what those interactions were. It does not even reveal the very recent activity. It takes a few days of time to show up the exact activity.
However, Facebook offers an option to download activity details. The ‘Download Activity Details’ button. If you click the button, it takes you to an existing Facebook feature that lets you download everything in the form of a searchable file. You can even configure settings such as the period of time that you want to download and the file format.
HTML format is human-viewable while JSON is designed for apps and programs to read. The platform can take up to a few days to create a log file. Towards the bottom of this page, you will find an option to turn off Future Activity. If you click here, it pops up another pane to confirm whether you want to turn it off. The platform takes two days of time to stop collecting data.
However, turning off future activity for an individual site does not mean it’s done. Facebook admits that the list is not comprehensive. It collects more details and activities that the platform cannot share with the end users due to technical and accuracy reasons.
To disconnect a particular activity from your account, and disconnect from all activity in future, you need to perform a clear history process. Towards the bottom of the Off-Facebook Activity screen, you will find an option to clear history and Manage Future Activity. Selecting Clear History will show a list of third party sites and apps that were not listed in the Off-Facebook Activity page.
Clicking on Manage Future Activity link gives two simple options: either turnoff future Facebook activity using a slider and then view the activity you have turned off. This does not mean, Facebook will stop displaying ads. It will sign you out of some apps and websites but Facebook won’t connect that data to your account. The platform will continue to show ads based on your activities within Facebook platform.
Performing the above steps might not protect your data entirely. However this is a step in the right direction if not perfect. You can limit the data that Facebook is storing about you with the Off-Facebook tool.