Facebook is today introducing its long-awaited privacy feature, "Off-Facebook Activity", which enables users to keep track of information about them used by third-party apps.
To coincide with Data Privacy Day, the social media giant has launched the feature to allow users to disconnect any information the company has shared from their account and stop showing targeted ads.
Facebook made a commitment to improve privacy controls following a $5 billion fine from the US Federal Trade Commission last year. Industry commentators have criticised the FTC’s decision to settle for a relatively small fine after the company’s privacy violations were uncovered in the 2017 Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook took in $17.9 billion revenue between July and September alone last year.
Now, Facebook users will be able to see what information apps and websites have sent through the platform by going to Settings > Your Facebook Information > Off-Facebook Activity. Users can then remove the information from their account and turn off future "off-Facebook activity". This should apply to all apps and websites so they will no longer be able to share users' activities with Facebook.
This means Facebook will not know which websites a user has visited and what they have looked at – however, users’ data is not actually deleted. Rather, the data will be anonymised before being shared with advertisers. Nearly all Facebook’s income comes from advertising.
Facebook is also sending a reminder for users to check their privacy settings, with a nudge to go to Privacy Checkup appearing at the top of their newsfeed.
Steve Hatch, vice-president, Northern Europe, at Facebook, said: "There are a number of ways you can control your information on Facebook and we’re always looking at more ways for you to do this. That’s why from today, our Off-Facebook Activity tool will make it easy to manage which apps and websites can access your information."