Advice

Facebook is Even Tracking Your “Off-Facebook Activity”. Here’s How to Change That.

Sign up for the best newsletter EVER!

Our Tech Column was made possible by the fine folks at Mozilla Firefox.  The nonprofit Mozilla Foundation believes the Internet must always remain a global public resource that is open and accessible to all.  And that’s why we love Firefox as our browser, and you should too.


GUEST POST BY DAVID RUIZ

This won’t come as a shocker: Facebook knows a lot about you.

But did you know that the reams of data that Facebook collects about you extend far beyond your actual activity on the platform? If you use Facebook’s sign-in service to log into an entirely separate app, like Tinder, Spotify, or Airbnb, Facebook could know about it. If your bank relies on Facebook’s business tools to understand its customer base, Facebook could likely know about your online banking activity. Depending on the stores you frequent—both online and physically—Facebook could know about your searches, your shopping cart items, your wishlists, your purchases, and your donations.

This type of info, which is willfully offered by outside companies to Facebook, is called “Off-Facebook Activity,” and Facebook uses the data to deliver what it brain-numbingly insists people want: “relevant” ads.

Look, I don’t care how relevant an ad is, it doesn’t make a bad experience good. The best billboard in the world won’t improve the Bay Area’s monster commutes, and a “relevant” ad for an overpriced electric kettle won’t excite me into gazing into my uncle’s pro-Trump news feed abyss.

Anyways, with “Off-Facebook Activity,” there’s good news and bad news. The good news is, a new Facebook tool grants you some control some of that activity. The bad news is, you can’t get a complete view of the data that companies send over, and Facebook’s new tool won’t stop those companies from sending your info over. Instead, the tool allows you to tell Facebook to stop associating that info with you.

Here’s how to do it:

1. On your Facebook homepage, go to the upper right corner and click on the small, downwards-facing triangle to the right of the “?” symbol. Then, click on “Settings” as shown here. You can also skip the next immediate step by following this link: https://www.facebook.com/off_facebook_activity/

 

2. In this broad settings page, first go to the left side of the screen and find the “Your Facebook Information” item, which is listed third from the top. Then, on the main body of the page, click on the “Off-Facebook Activity” option.

 

3. On this new landing page, the right side of the screen will show two options: “Manage Your Off-Facebook Activity” and “Clear History.”

Here, you have a choice. Selecting “Manage your Off-Facebook Activity” will bring you to a page that reveals information about some of the companies that send your activity over to Facebook, along with a count of how many interactions that company has sent.

For example, when I looked at my own Off-Facebook Activity, I learned that Chase really enjoys sending my banking activity to Facebook (50 interactions).

I also learned that, because I visited two wedding planning websites in the past months, Facebook will now likely infer that I’m in the business of getting married. This is terrible news to me, because I can tell you that with a full one month of authority to my name, wedding planning is awful and any ads about it will only send me into rage.

The option to “Clear History” will do just that—it will remove the history of Off-Facebook Activity that the company received from other websites and vendors. It’s a nice option, but it doesn’t provide full protection from the company’s data-leaping conclusions. For that, you’ll want to move on to step 4.

 

4. Returning to the right side of the screen with the “Manage Your Off-Facebook Activity” and “Clear History” options, click the text below, in smaller font, that says “More Options,” which reveals four new choices. Click “Manage Future Activity.”

 

5. After seeing a brief pop-up, click the “Manage Future Activity” button in the right corner.

 

6. Click the blue toggle shown here.

 

7. Click “Turn off.”

 

8. Rejoice! You’ve now told Facebook that when it receives information about you from outside websites and vendors, it cannot associate that information with your account. Facebook, of course, warns you about the side-effects: You won’t be able to log into websites and apps using Facebook (sounds good to me), and your activity history will be disconnected from your account (also good). Unfortunately, Facebook says this will not change the number of ads you receive. You’ll still get just as many.

You can’t win ‘em all, I guess.

Now, if you find no value in ads, no matter how relevant, might I offer a suggestion to improve your overall Facebook experience? Joining the two, marvelous groups “This cat is C H O N K Y.” and “This cat is ACTUALLY C H O N K Y” (for real big bois whomst cannot be ignored).

Your feed is instantly improved. You’re welcome.

Like this article? Make sure to sign up for our mailing list so you never miss a goddamn thing!
Previous post

Celebrate Independent Film With Film Threat’s “Award This!”

Next post

What Happened in Iowa was a Hilarious and Revealing Lesson to Young Voters


Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

I've been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle , "an SF cult hero": SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York, but to those familiar with my work, I'm just "that douchebag who writes books about cheap stuff and drinks a lot".