After multiple hacks, controversies and criticism by official bodies, Facebook finally is giving you the key to your own, personal data – with a caveat. The company can’t let go entirely after all, it’s how they make money.
So, doing good on Zuckerberg’s promise following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook is rolling out a feature on its site called Off-Facebook Activity that allows you to “see a summary of the apps and websites that send [Facebook] information about your activity, and clear this information from your account if you want to,” the company explains in a blog post. The feature is first rolling out in Ireland, South Korea and Spain.
Here’s what you can do with this new feature:
-See a summary of the information other apps and websites have sent Facebook through our online business tools, like Facebook Pixel or Facebook Login;
-Disconnect this information from your account if you want to; and
-Choose to disconnect future off-Facebook activity from your account. You can do this for all of your off-Facebook activity, or just for specific apps and websites.
“Imagine a clothing website wants to show ads to people who are interested in a new style of shoes,” the blog post explains. “They can send information to Facebook saying someone on a particular device looked at those shoes. If that device information matches someone’s Facebook account, we can show ads about those shoes to that person.”
In essence, any activity you do outside Facebook that could infer interest in a certain product will result with the user seeing a corresponding ad on Facebook when they jump back on to the social media platform. It makes sense why one begins to see ads for TV screens on Facebook after a brief browse of these products on Amazon, for example.
Still, opting out of this with the new Off-Facebook Activity feature doesn’t mean the company will stop collecting your data.
“Facebook still keeps that data, it’s just not associated with your account,” Forbes highlights. Facebook is taking your data one way or another, except now you can opt for it to be anonymous data, and no longer traceable back to you. So Facebook will know people are interested in the aforementioned “new style of shoes,” but they won’t know it’s you. Win-win for both sides, right?
Well yes, for the most part, but Facebook might actually be receiving the short end of the stick, odd as it may sound.
Facebook’s pockets to suffer?
With holistic consumer profiles of users now whittled down by anonymity, Facebook’s business model could suffer from this. After all, the social media giant built its fortune on harvesting user data to facilitate and provide ultra-precise advertising to brands and corporations.
“This is how much of the internet works,” Facebook even said in their blog post, and it is true for the most part. It’s similar to how Google Ads work too, collecting cookies and other traceable info to build a virtual profile of a user to target ads to them more accurately.
Now, if a large number of the 2.41 billion users on the platform use the Off-Facebook Activity feature to opt out of targeting, the company’s financials will likely receive a hit.
“If this were widely adopted, it would mean less overall revenue for Facebook,” David Baser, a director of product management at the company, told the New York Times. “And that’s O.K.”
Whether many people make the effort – which is very much a proactive one – is still unclear.
Ever the company with the caring, persevering PR persona, Facebook closed their post with the following: “This feature marks a new level of transparency and control, and we’ll keep improving. We welcome conversations with privacy experts, policymakers and other companies about how to continue building tools like this.”