Facebook launches tool allowing users to prevent it from tracking their data across web

Facebook launches tool allowing users to prevent it from tracking their data across web
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Facebook on Tuesday launched a new tool that will allow users to prevent the powerful social media platform from tracking them across the web.

The company's new "Off-Facebook Activity" tool will allow people to access a list of the companies sharing information about their online activity with Facebook and offer users the opportunity to opt out of that tracking.

While the tool is aimed at allowing users to prevent Facebook from tracking their activity across the web, it does not affect third-party companies' ability to still collect data on those users.


"Off-Facebook Activity lets you see a summary of the apps and websites that send us information about your activity, and clear this information from your account if you want to," Facebook officials said in a blog post.

Facebook has come under intense scrutiny over its enormous trove of user data, which it uses to target hyper-individualized advertisements. The company has been accused of mishandling that data and misleading users over how much information they are sharing with Facebook. 

The new feature will allow users to have more say over how much of their data is collected and shared.

Most websites share user information with either Facebook or Google in order to target advertisements. Some estimates have found Facebook has trackers on about a fifth of all web pages.

The "Off-Facebook Activity" tool will likely hit Facebook's bottom line, as it relies heavily on user data to fuel its advertising-based revenue model. Facebook's chief privacy officer Erin Egan wrote in the blog post the move could "have some impact on our business, but we believe giving people control over their data is more important." 

Facebook has been promising to create a "Clear History" tool since last year. While the tool announced on Tuesday bears some resemblance to that project, it will not allow users to fully delete the information Facebook has collected about them.

Importantly, Facebook will still collect data from other websites, though it will be anonymous. If users say they do not want companies to share their data anymore, Facebook will disassociate that information from their user profile.

For now, the tool will only be available in Ireland, South Korea and Spain, and it will be rolled out to other locations in the coming months.

"This feature marks a new level of transparency and control, and we’ll keep improving," Facebook wrote. "We welcome conversations with privacy experts, policymakers and other companies about how to continue building tools like this." 

The social media behemoth recently settled a government investigation into its data privacy practices for a record-breaking $5 billion, a deal that included the implementation of new safeguards around how it builds products. 

Updated: 12:50 p.m.