Facebook’s ‘Off-Facebook Activity Tool’ disconnects user ad targeting data from profiles, doesn’t delete it

The new data management tool is a modified version of the “Clear History” tool Facebook said it would release more than a year ago.

Facebook is rolling out an Off-Facebook Activity tool that allows users to see a summary of the apps and websites that have shared their user data with Facebook, and gives them the opportunity to clear the information from their Facebook accounts. The new tool will first launch in Ireland, South Korea and Spain before getting a global roll out in the coming months.

Facebook first announced a transparency tool for users more than a year ago at the F8 Developers Conference in May, 2018. At the time, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company was working on “Clear History” tool that would let users clear their browsing history on the platform and see all the apps they had interacted with. The newly introduced tool is a modified version of what was originally announced — and doesn’t so much “clear” user data as it “disconnects” the data from the user’s profile.

How the Off-Facebook Activity tool works. Facebook said users will be able to use the tool to see and control the data other apps and websites have shared with Facebook. In addition to seeing a summary of user data that has been sent to Facebook via business tools like the Facebook Pixel or Facebook Login, users may choose to disconnect their information from their profiles if they want. They can also choose to disconnect future off-Facebook activity from their account: “You can do this for all of your off-Facebook activity, or just for specific apps and websites.”

Is Facebook deleting the user data? The short answer is no. The new transparency tool will let users clear their information from their accounts, but the data still exists.

“We’ll remove your identifying information from the data that apps and websites choose to send us,” writes Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan and Director of Product Management David Baser, “We won’t know which websites you visited or what you did there, and we won’t use any of the data you disconnect to target ads to you on Facebook, Instagram or Messenger.”

When asked if Facebook might eventually add tools to control certain types of data, such as purchase history or location data, during an interview with TechCrunch, Baser said Facebook found “Very few people understood the data enough” to want such a tool.

Why we should care. Facebook admits it expects the Off-Facebook Activity tool to have some impact on its business — most likely that if users take advantage of the tool, the platform will lose ad targeting data. Less ad targeting data could mean marketers see lesser results and pull back ad spend on the platform.

Several marketers we spoke with earlier this year said advertisers will adjust to Facebook’s privacy efforts. “By understanding a few things about a target audience and deriving predictive learning insights based on this, brands can build personified campaigns, giving the right message to the right person at the right time without knowing any personal information,” said Steve Weiss, CEO of Facebook advertising agency MuteSix.

About The Author

Amy Gesenhues is a senior editor for Third Door Media, covering the latest news and updates for Marketing Land, Search Engine Land and MarTech Today. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including MarketingProfs, SoftwareCEO, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more of Amy’s articles.

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