Facebook Begins Rolling Out New Tool to See Which of Its Data Pals Are Monitoring You


Photo: Sean Gallup (Getty)

As Facebook works to undo the damage of years of user data scandals—ostensibly with an overhauled focus on “privacy,” or something—part of that effort has involved rolling out features geared at greater transparency that, quite frankly, should have been introduced years ago. But here we are.

Facebook announced in a blog post on Tuesday that in an effort to “shed more light on” its data-collection policies, the company is rolling out an Off-Facebook Activity function to both review and control the data that websites and apps share with Facebook. The post—authored by Facebook’s chief privacy officer Erin Egan and its director of product management David Baser—cited App Annie data that claimed most smartphone users have about 80 apps on their phones but use only 40 of them each month on average.

Egan and Baser wrote that the data-collection policies used by many free websites like Facebook “are common yet not always well understood,” and the off-Facebook tool is intended to supplement existing functions—such as the “Why am I seeing this ad?” tool—as a way to put the control back into the hands of users who may not necessarily know who’s sharing their data with the social media giant.

According to Facebook, the tool will allow users to see summaries of and disconnect from the data-sharing activity for both specific apps and all future activity.

“If you clear your off-Facebook activity, we’ll remove your identifying information from the data that apps and websites choose to send us,” Egan wrote. “We won’t know which websites you visited or what you did there, and we won’t use any of the data you disconnect to target ads to you on Facebook, Instagram or Messenger. We expect this could have some impact on our business, but we believe giving people control over their data is more important.”

Taking a hit straight to the money bags, huh? How bold and brave of Facebook to so generously forfeit information about its use and collection of its users’ own data after seemingly endless data scandals and countless investigations into its conduct!

In any event, its U.S. users are going to have to wait for access. The company said it will “gradually” make the tool available to users in Ireland, South Korea, and Spain before a wider rollout in the coming months.



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