Facebook launches new tool for users to see data collected from other sites

Facebook launched a new tool designed to let users see and manage which apps and websites share data about their browsing habits and interactions with the social media giant.

The new tool, called “Off-Facebook Activity,” gives the company’s 2.4 billion monthly users access to a summary of the hundreds of apps and websites that send Facebook information about their activity. The platform’s users can also disconnect the information from their accounts and clear future activity harvested when users are not on Facebook.

The data, however, will not be completely deleted. Instead, clearing off-Facebook activity will lead the internet company to remove identifying information from the data it receives from apps and websites.

“This is another way to give people more transparency and control on Facebook,” the Menlo Park, California-based company said in a blog post.

Facebook will begin by rolling out the new tool in Ireland, South Korea, and Spain, and will unveil it globally over the coming months.

The Silicon Valley giant noted that the average person has more than 80 apps on their phone and uses roughly 40 each month, which makes it hard for people to know which apps have collected data about them and what it’s being used for.

Facebook said the tool was built from scratch and created with input from privacy advocates, policymakers, advertisers, and industry groups.

The technology, which Facebook heralded as a “new level of transparency and control,” comes as the company has faced scrutiny for its data privacy practices.

The tech firm was hit with a $5 billion fine from the Federal Trade Commission last month over its privacy missteps and agreed to new restrictions on how it handles user data.

The penalty, the largest levied against a company for privacy violations, stemmed from an investigation the FTC opened last year into claims Facebook breached a 2012 consent decree. The probe was opened after it was revealed Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm that worked on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, improperly harvested personal data from 87 million Facebook users.

Users were unaware the company was sharing their information with third-party apps, and the FTC accused Facebook of engaging in deceptive practices.

Facebook makes money in part by using information from users to connect advertisers with a carefully tailored market of buyers, and the company acknowledged the new feature could damage its bottom line.

“We expect this could have some impact on our business,” Facebook said, “but we believe giving people control over their data is more important.”

The social media firm announced in May 2018 it would roll out a “Clear History” feature as it grappled with the backlash from the public and Congress over its mishandling of consumer data.

The unveiling, however, was delayed as Facebook sought input and made changes to meet the demands of outside stakeholders.

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