Facebook rolls out tool to block off-Facebook data gathering

Facebook is launching a long-promised tool that lets users block the social network from gathering information about them on outside websites and apps.

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Facebook unveils long-promised tool to limit what data it receives from third-party apps and websites

Facebook on Tuesday unveiled its long-awaited feature allowing users to limit businesses, apps and other groups that collect data about them on the web and pass that information to the tech giant, a move that may disappoint people who thought they’d be able to delete that information from Facebook in full.

The social-media giant said the new tools to control “Off-Facebook Activity” are designed to “shed more light” on a form of online tracking — concerning shopping habits, web-browsing histories and other activities — that determines some of the ads people see on Facebook. Users now can choose to remove this history from their accounts and turn off some or all of that tracking in the future.

The tools are being rolled out in Spain, Ireland and South Korea beginning Tuesday, with additional availability in the coming months, company officials said.

The company said on Tuesday that it is adding a section where you can see the activity that Facebook tracks outside its service via its “like” buttons and other means. You can choose to turn off the tracking; otherwise, tracking will continue the same way it has been.

The feature comes more than a year after Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg first pledged to build a function called “Clear History” that he said would work much in the same way a web browser allows people to see and delete information about the sites they visited. The goal had been to empower users to “flush your history whenever you want,” he said in May 2018, admitting the company hadn’t been clear about all the ways it learns about its users.

But the implementation of those controls doesn’t exactly flush data, as Zuckerberg had promised. Instead, it disconnects information from being identified to a specific user, and it isn’t deleted outright. Facebook officials previously said users could “delete this information from your account,” a pledge that might have led users to believe Facebook would remove it entirely.

The controls also won’t prevent Facebook from reporting back to another business whenever users generally purchase their product after seeing an ad targeted to them — one of the most attractive elements of the Facebook platform, underpinning its lucrative success, in the eyes of companies that want to reach specific audiences and measure the impact of their ads.

 

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