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Facebook knows a lot about your online habits – here’s how to stop it – Naked Security


Facebook is rolling out a global tool to help you understand what other sites and apps tell it about your activities, to make it forget what they’ve shared in the past, and to control what they share in the future. It’s called Off-Facebook Activity, and it’s part of the company’s effort to appear more privacy-friendly to its users. This article looks at how to use it.

Facebook first launched its Off-Facebook Activity feature in August 2019, making it available in a few select markets at first. It shows you what third-party sites and apps share data with Facebook about your activities when you visit them. The social giant also launched a Clear History feature at the same time, which lets you disconnect that data from your account.

This week’s announcement sees the company rolling these tools out globally. So why do we need them, and how do they work?

Facebook doesn’t just log what you’re doing when you visit its site. It also interacts with many of the third-party sites and apps that you use. Those third parties send Facebook information about your activities including things like opening an app on your mobile, logging into it online using your Facebook ID, or even just visiting a site. Many sites also log your searches and purchases, or whether you added an item to a wishlist or cart.

They do this in three ways: the first uses Facebook’s Pixel. This piece of Facebook code is known more generically as a web bug, and it logs your activities on any site that embeds it, sending that information back to Facebook. The second is the Facebook SDK, which is a software toolkit that people can use to build similar capabilities into everything from mobile apps to PC games. There’s even a separate one for tvOS, the operating system inside Apple TV devices. Finally, they use your Facebook Login, which is the feature that lets you log into sites automatically when you’re already logged into Facebook.

Sites and apps send Facebook this information along with the unique identity of the device that you’re using, which they collect using a software tracker.

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