How To Use Facebook's New Tool To See What It Knows About You

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On Tuesday, Facebook launched a new feature that could help some users address privacy concerns. With the new "Off-Facebook Activity" tool, users won't be able to delete their Facebook data entirely, but they will be able to separate much of their browsing history from their individual account. And though the roll-out hasn't reached all users yet, you can still learn how to use "Off-Facebook Activity" before it becomes available on your account.

So far, the feature is first available for users in Ireland, South Korea, and Spain, but according to Facebook's Newsroom website, users living elsewhere will gain access to it in the "coming months." Regardless of where you live, it's important to remember that Off-Facebook Activity will not erase your user data entirely. Instead, it will simply stop some of that data from being associated with your individual account.

What data, you might ask? If you've ever wondered why Facebook ads are so eerily tailored to your most random thoughts, it's because Facebook is often given information about the websites you search off-Facebook. (Hence the name "Off-Facebook Activity.") According to Facebook's website, this is the kind of data that the new feature will help you protect, at least to a certain extent.

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According to an announcement on Facebook's Newsroom website, Off-Facebook Activity will enable users to do the following:

"See a summary of the information other apps and websites have sent Facebook through our online business tools, like Facebook Pixel or Facebook Login;
Disconnect this information from your account if you want to; and
Choose to disconnect future off-Facebook activity from your account. You can do this for all of your off-Facebook activity, or just for specific apps and websites."

So even though your data won't be gone, you can cater what kind of data companies share with Facebook in association with your personal account. The data will still exist, but using this feature will in theory disconnect it from you, personally.

How do you use this feature, then? According to information from screenshots posted on Facebook's Newsroom website, when it rolls out to your account, you can use the following steps to manage your data as much as possible:

  1. Go to your Facebook Settings.
  2. Select the "Off-Facebook Activity" option.
  3. To manage your current data sharing, click "Manage Your Off-Facebook Activity."
  4. You will see a list of apps and websites that have shared your data with Facebook. Using this list, select whichever websites you do and do not want to share your data with Facebook.
  5. You can select the "Clear History" option if you want to disconnect all your data-sharing history from your personal account.
  6. If you want to also disconnect future data collection from your account, go back to the first "Manage Your Off-Facebook Activity" page.
  7. Select "More Options." From there, select "Manage Future Activity."
  8. Opt in to turning off your future activity sharing.

Using these steps will prevent Facebook from linking your website histories to tailor specific ads to you, since they will be de-linked from your personal account. So over the coming months, you might want to keep an eye on your Facebook Settings so you'll know when the Off-Facebook Activity feature is available to you. And when it pops up, you'll know exactly how to use it.