Facebook has often been synonymous with data breaches, scandals, hacking episodes and whatnot. The company though is keen to change all of that or at least will like us to believe they are working to bring about a change. Their launching of the new ‘Off-Facebook Activity’ tool can be considered to be a development in that direction.
Interestingly, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the new tool on Data Privacy Day and will let users manage the ways the social site tracks its users the world over. Also, while Zuckerberg had first announced the tool, then known as the Clear History button, back in May 2018 when the Cambridge Analytica scandal was still boiling, it is only now that the feature is being rolled out to the over 2 billion of its monthly users the world over.
Zuckerberg said there are a lot of things that they needed to do before they could make the ‘Off-Facebook Activity’ tool a reality. As for those keen to know just the sort of information that the tool would be showing, Zuckerberg said those would include user’s activity on sites and businesses that have an agreement with Facebook to share such info with them.
From the user’s perspective, this would perhaps be the first time they would have an idea of the surveillance network sort of thing that Facebook has woven around us, gathering data on almost everything that users do while online. That includes the sites they have visited, purchases made online, the sort of news they have gone through and so on. Zuckerberg said they need such info to show users ad that they feel will be most relevant to them.
With the new tool, users will have the option to delink their account from the data that the company gathers about the user. That, however, won’t stop Facebook from tracking user’s online activities though the company is claiming they won’t be linked to the user’s account any more. In fact, the tracking would continue even if the user deactivates their account as the tracking info would be relevant again just in case the user opts to come back again.
Fortunately for the users, there is also the option to turn off future tracking as well. This way, users can rest assured of not having to clean their online history at regular intervals. Then there is also the ‘Ads based on data from partners’ setting under ‘As Controls’ turning off which will prevent businesses and advertisers to show ads based on other parameters.
On the whole, it could be sometime before we get to know exactly the extent to which Facebook goes to track its user’s activities; and if it is really honest in allowing users having complete control over the data it collects. After all, the company doesn’t have a particularly clean record on this aspect though a user’s at least will be better aware of all the data that Facebook collects about them.