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The Facebook logo reflected in a window looking out over a smoggy city.

The Facebook logo showed in a window looking out over

a smoggy city.|Ed Jones/AFP by means of Getty Images The” Off-Facebook Activity” tool lets you see– and somewhat control– what other sites and apps tell Facebook about you.

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Facebook users simply got a new peek into– and a little control over– the myriad methods the social network tracks what they do when they’re not using Facebook. If you didn’t already understand it, by the way, Facebook is tracking a remarkable quantity of what you do when you’re not utilizing the platform, an activity also referred to as living life in the real life.

The brand-new Off-Facebook Activity tool, which the company revealed last August, finally released on Tuesday. It can inform you which companies are providing Facebook with information about your real-world activity– for example, that you visited their website or acquired a product from it.

Why does Facebook want this? Due to the fact that it can then match that information with your Facebook profile and target advertisements to you (or, in Facebook’s words, “personalize your experience”). A lot of times when you believe Facebook is listening to your telephone call based on how particular its ads are, it’s actually due to the fact that of how comprehensive (and hidden) its offsite information collection is.

This in-depth tracking is why you might see, oh, I do not know, an ad for a play starring the age-old Kate Mulgrew right away after a Star Trek: Voyager Netflix binge, even if you weren’t on Facebook at the time. This is likewise what allows numerous websites, including Facebook, to offer you totally free services. So you are getting something out of this deal– you just may not have actually recognized you were making the deal in the first location, or how much information you were turning over. (The play was excellent, by the way.)

Accessing the Off-Facebook Activity tool to see just how much Facebook learns about your life outside of Facebook is not exactly straightforward. You can go straight to the tool by clicking here. If you’re searching for it from your News Feed, you’ll require to go to Settings and after that click Your Facebook Details. You ought to see a line for Off-Facebook Activity, and then simply go to see. Then prepare to be flabbergasted. One of our reporters, for instance, found that 518 apps and sites had actually shared her data with Facebook in some method:

a list of websites from Facebook's off-Facebook activity tool

A number of the websites on her list were ones she had simply checked out. That’s since a lot of sites use Facebook’s trackers, which immediately gather and send out visitor information back to Facebook. Even users with tracker-blocking extensions on their browsers will likely discover lots of instances where business are sending out individual data to Facebook.


The feature also allows you to pull out of some of this collection– to a point. Clicking a specific company’s listing will raise a dialogue that will give you a somewhat more specific appearance at what data was gathered. There’s likewise the choice to “Switch off future activity” from that business. If you’re looking for a nuclear option, you can click “Handle Future Activity” and after that turn the blue switch on the right side of the page.


This looks like it would switch off all real-world data collection, but that’s not exactly true. After you flip the switch, you’ll see a dialogue that says, “We’ll still get activity from the services and companies your see.” This info simply won’t be connected with your account.

You can likewise erase your off-Facebook activity history by clicking “Clear History” on the activity list. A window will then turn up asking you to click “Clear History” once again:

Facebook's clear off-Facebook activity history prompt

As the prompt states, you’ll still see ads– but they won’t be those weird advertisements of a product you were just taking a look at on a various website.

If you do not like the idea of your Facebook habits being tracked and utilized for advertisements, you might likewise (if you haven’t already) wish to alter your advertisement settings on Facebook (offered in the “Advertisements” area of your Facebook settings). Switch off “Ads based on data from partners,” “Ads based upon your activity on Facebook Company Products that you see in other places,” and “Advertisements that include your social actions.” Once again, this won’t completely turned off the tracking, however it will decrease it.

If you don’t like the concept of being tracked by Facebook at all, hard luck. Even if you delete all of your represent Facebook-owned service, including Instagram and WhatsApp, it feels like there’s no place online or in the world that the social network can’t access. A minimum of Facebook is providing you some control over it.


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