You might not realise it, but Facebook isn’t just ‘watching’ what you do on its website - it also hoovers up data from lots of other sites and apps.
Thousands of apps and websites partner with Facebook and send data (such as what pages you visit, or what you buy) to the social network to help it build your profile.
But some users can now turn this off, the site said today - although the data isn’t fully deleted, just ‘disconnected’ from your profile.
Users will be able to select an option to remove ‘Off-Facebook Activity’ information about themselves that has been sent to the social network by partners.
Facebook will also allow users to disconnect future off-Facebook activity from their account, either disconnecting it entirely, or just for specific apps and websites.
The new activity tool will initially be introduced for users in Ireland, South Korea and Spain, with other territories following shortly, the social media giant said on Tuesday.
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.
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.
‘Many apps and websites are free because they’re supported by online advertising,’ Facebook said in a statement. ‘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.
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‘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.
More privacy controls
Facebook now offers a large suite of privacy controls - including the option to retrospectively change the settings of old posts.
Privacy Checkup is a quick ‘tour’ which allows users to check and adjust privacy settings.
To access Privacy Checkup and Privacy Shortcuts (a page allowing you to adjust settings in more detail), click the question mark icon in the top right of the desktop PC version of Facebook.
Privacy Checkup takes you quickly through important settings on your Profile, such as choosing to who your phone number, email address and birthday are visible.
You can also retrospectively change the audience of all previous posts, so if you’re worried about posts from years ago, this will help.