What is Facebook’s new ‘Off-Facebook Activity’ tool and can you shut it off?

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Facebook users now have a little more insight into how the social media giant collects information about us — both on and off the platform.

A new tool launched worldwide Tuesday — coinciding with Data Privacy Day — shows users a list of information that businesses share with Facebook about your interactions with them.

The tracking feature shows information that Facebook has collected about your activity off the app over the past 180 days. Here’s where you can find your full activity list.

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When you visit a website or use an app, the companies typically share information about your activity and “interactions” with Facebook. Facebook then uses that information to “personalize your experience” — i.e. target you with relevant ads.

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Interactions, as defined by Facebook, range from everything from opening the app to searching an item to making a purchase or adding an item to a wishlist.

Users are now able to see how the activity was received, how many interactions were recorded and by what company.

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The tool, initially known as Clear History, was first introduced by CEO Mark Zuckerberg at a developers’ conference in 2018. The announcement came in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where personal information from millions of people’s Facebook profiles was harvested without their consent.

Re-named the Off-Facebook Activity tool, it began gradually rolling out to some countries by August 2019. Now, it’s available to Facebook’s two billion users around the world.

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Zuckerberg touted the tool as a “new level of transparency and control” in a blog post on Tuesday.

“Other businesses send us information about your activity on their sites and we use that information to show you ads that are relevant to you,” Zuckerberg wrote.

“Now, you can see a summary of that information and clear it from your account if you want to.”

Not a fan of the new tool? While you can’t shut it off per se, you can use the “clear history” control to disconnect the information from your account. Find the instructions for that here.

You can also choose to turn off linking your “future off-Facebook activity,” meaning the collection of your interactions on apps and websites outside of Facebook won’t be connected to your account. By choosing to turn this activity off, you’ll also disconnect your past off-Facebook activity.

While you might see the same number of ads, Facebook says they may be less personalized to you. You can find out how to turn off this setting here.

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Along with this rollout, over the next few weeks, Facebookers will also start to see prompts encouraging them to make use of the app’s Privacy Checkup tools to review their privacy settings.

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“This makes it even easier to adjust who can see your posts and profile information, strengthen your account by turning on login alerts and review the information you share with applications you’ve logged into with Facebook,” he wrote.

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