We all know Facebook tracks what you do while using its apps and website, but the social media monolith also collects data from third-party apps, services, and websites, even when you’re not using Facebook. It’s one of the ways Facebook’s targeted ads become eerily specific and seem to know what you’ve been looking up on other websites.
However, Facebook is now letting users see the data that it tracks from non-Facebook sources thanks to a new “Off-Facebook Activity” menu. You can even disentangle Facebook’s data on you with the data it receives from third parties, but that’s not quite the same as deleting the data outright.
I’ve talked about Facebook’s off-site data tracking in previous posts, and most people are probably aware that logging in to a website or syncing an app to your Facebook account means the company gets access to certain data. This is the first time users have been able to easily view and manage tracked third-party data, and it’s something everyone should check out.
How to find and manage your off-Facebook data
You can find the new Off-Facebook Activity tab under Settings > Your Facebook Data > Off-Facebook Activity. The tab exists in the same place for both mobile and desktop users.
The Off-Facebook Activity menu lists which connected apps and websites are sending data to Facebook and includes several options for managing said data:
- To Facebook from associating its data with the data it receives from a specific app at some future point, tap or click it in the list then scroll down and select “Turn off future activity.” You can also use the “Give feedback about this activity” link to report any concerns you may have about an app’s activity tracking.
- “Download your information” lets you save an offline report of all previously tracked data up to now.
There are also options to disassociate Facebook’s data with third-party data and block this connections from being made going forward, if you prefer.
Screenshot: Brendan Hesse
- “Clear history” breaks the link between Facebook’s data and the data it receives from third-party apps and websites. The latter doesn’t go away; it just isn’t connected to your Facebook account per se. (You’ll still probably be fingerprinted around the web, don’t worry.)
- “Manage future activity” lets you quickly make sweeping changes to how Facebook treats the data it receives from all apps—even those you may sync in the future.
Keep in mind, however, that even these scorched-earth tactics won’t remove ads from Facebook, stop services from sending data about you to Facebook, or stop Facebook from tracking you elsewhere. It merely disconnects your Facebook identity from the information Facebook has (or will get). While there are ways to manage your ad data to make them more relevant (or less personalized), if you really want an ad-free experience you’ll need the help of third-party tools.