A report by Wired has unearthed even more fine print than first imagined regarding Facebook's new privacy feature.
Yesterday, we covered the news about a new privacy feature for Facebook that will be rolling out across the world, called Off-Facebook Activity. The new feature will allow users to finally detach themselves from Facebook’s personal data mining efforts that users subject themselves to when they use their platform. The feature has been rolled out so far in Ireland, South Korea and Spain.
“Off-Facebook Activity will give you a summary of the third-party websites and apps that share your visit history with Facebook, and will allow you to clear them,” news site Wired explains. “You can also choose not to allow Facebook to use your browsing history for personalized advertising in the future, including on Messenger and Instagram.”
However, there was some text in fine print: Facebook wasn’t really going to stop collecting data, as that’s how its business model is designed. So, Facebook’s new feature seemed to offer a compromise: Users can opt out of being identified as the owners of the data being collected from them, while allowing Facebook to continue to do so. This time, though, it’s guised under anonymity, so users should perhaps enjoy some peace of mind. We thought that was all there is to it.
Well, it turns out there was more fine print than we first imagined.
After some more digging, Wired discovered another “loophole,” so to speak, and to quote the site.
“Even if you turn off Facebook’s ability to use your browsing history for ads, Facebook will still collect that information, and it will still be connected to your account for up to two days,” Wired revealed. “Buried in a Help Center post behind a drop-down menu, Facebook clarifies: ‘Your future off-Facebook activity will be disconnected within 48 hours from when it's received. During this time it may be used for measurement purposes and to make improvements to our ads systems.’”
Essentially, even if you opt out, Facebook will still have 48 hours to scrounge up as much data as they can from you.
Facebook’s director of policy communications Jaw Nancarrow told Wired that by not truly deleting user data, and instead keeping it anonymous, “we can do things like give advertisers reports on the effectiveness of their ad campaigns or give businesses aggregated site and analytics reports, such as how many women between the ages of 18 and 24 use their apps.”
He continued: “And Facebook needs the 48-hour window in order to compile this kind of information. In a blog post aimed at clients published in May, Facebook reassured advertisers it would “still be able to provide accurate measurement,” in order to help businesses grasp “the impact of their Facebook investment.”
Still, some are not sold on this whole affair.
Analyst Robinson Humphrey told CNBC that the “Off-Facebook Activity” feature “appears to fall somewhat short of the original pledge by CEO Zuckerberg of empowering users to ‘flush their history whenever they want,’ and delete all the relevant data,” Interesting Engineering reported.
In retrospect, we should have realized that Facebook was never going to truly erase all of its users browsing histories and data at request, as that directly conflicts with their business model.
With this new information, users are left to make of it what they will. At the end of the day, when users sign up for any online platform, they are relinquishing the right to their data to major corporations, under some clause hidden in a sea of Terms and Conditions. Facebook shows us that there truly is no erasing of your history or online footprint, be it on Facebook or otherwise, as long as that act conflicts with a platform’s business model.
Essentially, the sentiment goes like this: if you don’t like it, don’t use it.
Whether that is possible in the 21st century, however, is another question entirely.