Facebook launches tool to let users control data flow

Cheryl Sanders
August 22, 2019

Facebook said it's a common practice for businesses to share data about people's activity on their websites with ad platforms and other services.

With the new tool, Facebook says users can see a summary of the information apps and websites have sent to Facebook.

As a company that provides free service and exclusively depends on advertising for income, Facebook believes that this privacy tool will have some impact on their business.

Following years of scandals, this is probably a feature that will be welcomed by users who have been unhappy with how Facebook has given away their private information in the past, though I'm not sure if it will be enough to lure people back who have abandoned the site as a result of the data scandals.

Facebook will now give users the option to view information collected by the company through other apps and websites and - if desired - disconnect from their account.

Facebook itself says that it could have "some consequences" for its revenue, but it is more important that users have control over their own data.

The new feature will be rolled out first in Ireland, South Korea and Spain, and then everywhere else over the coming months, Facebook said. They can disconnect the data from their account if they want.

For one thing, it looks likely that finding and then acting on the Off-Facebook tool will be a very niche activity.

Facebook previously told reporters the feature was taking longer than expected to develop as it worked to re-engineer its systems and re-think how it processed user data.

Now, says Morrison, the pendulum is swinging again and Facebook advertising is being valued for delivering a wide swathe of the population. In any case, Facebook had little choice, because the company is under the magnifying glass with the authorities, both in Europe and in its home country.

Facebook's other move to consolidate its messaging apps and pivot around end-to-end encryption would also likely close the services off to marketers as its hard to advertisers within encrypted environments, said Frank. The company has produced an explainer for the tool; simply put, disconnecting off-Facebook activity will immediately log users out of any sites they have logged into with Facebook credentials.

This is why when you browse a website for new shoes, you find an ad popping up in your Facebook Newsfeed half-an-hour later telling you about that nifty pair of boots you've just been looking at. You can choose to turn off the tracking; otherwise, tracking will continue the same way it has been. The company initially said it would take "a few months" to build this tool, but it was long delayed until now. He said that the new tools aren't ideal, but at least they're a step in the right direction - as in, a step away from third-party tracking, which he called "the original sin of the web".

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