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Facebook users given control over data gathered from other online activities

A new tool called Off-Facebook Activity will allow users to see the data shared with Facebook by other sites and delete it.

(Facebook)
(Facebook)

By Martyn Landi, PA Technology Correspondent

Facebook is to allow users to clear data which has been linked to their account based on their activity on other websites.

The social network said it will begin offering users the chance to see and remove “Off-Facebook Activity” information about themselves that has been sent to the social network by other apps and sites and is used to serve adverts.

Facebook said it will also allow users to disconnect future off-Facebook activity from their account, either in its entirety or just for specific apps and websites.

Much of the advertising found on the internet is served to users based on their previous online viewing habits, with businesses paying for sites such as Facebook to use this activity information to place adverts in front of users it believes are relevant to them.

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(Facebook)

But Facebook said the number of different apps people used meant many found it difficult to keep track of who has information on them and what it is used for.

It confirmed the new activity tool will initially be introduced for users in Ireland, South Korea and Spain.

The social network added it expects the feature “could have some impact on our business”, but said it believed giving people control over their data is more important.

“Many apps and websites are free because they’re supported by online advertising. And to reach people who are more likely to care about what they are selling, businesses often share data about people’s interactions on their websites with ad platforms and other services,” Facebook said.

“This is how much of the internet works, but given that the average person with a smartphone has more than 80 apps and uses about 40 of them every month, it can be really difficult for people to keep track of who has information about them and what it’s used for.

“To help shed more light on these practices that are common yet not always well understood, today we’re introducing a new way to view and control your off-Facebook activity.

“Off-Facebook Activity lets you see a summary of the apps and websites that send us information about your activity, and clear this information from your account if you want to.”

The social network said once the activity has been cleared it won’t know which websites a user has visited and it won’t use any of the disconnected data to target adverts at them on Facebook, Instagram or Messenger.

“This feature marks a new level of transparency and control, and we’ll keep improving,” the company said.

“We welcome conversations with privacy experts, policymakers, and other companies about how to continue building tools like this.”

The social network has been the subject of scrutiny around data usage for several years.

It has previously been criticised for not being transparent enough on issues of user data and how the company uses information it sees and gathers based on user activity.

The site recently launched features called “why am I seeing this post?” and “why am I seeing this ad?” which tells users the metrics used to decide why a post or advert has appeared on their feed.

PA

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