Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook, made it again to the international news back in 2018 when he appeared before the US Senate’s Commerce and Judiciary Committees to discuss the topics of data privacy, security, and consumer protection on the said social media site. But what provoked the senate to call on the entrepreneur for a senate hearing? To give you a background, let us recap the events that had transpired on this incident.
Around 300,000 Facebook users engaged in a third-party quiz app called “This is Your Digital Life” back in 2015. This allowed the app to access their information, and their friends’, that eventually accumulated to the collection of 87 million users’ data without their consent.
These include personal information such as public profiles, posts and pages they liked, birthdays, and locations.
Aleksandr Kogan, a psychologist, data scientist, and the developer of “This is Your Digital Life” app, reportedly used the information, as well as other collected messages between Facebook users, and sold it to Cambridge Analytica, a company where he soon worked with. Cambridge Analytica then used the harvested information to study the users’ behavior and interests that would be beneficial for their political advertising purposes, and eventually influence the users’ decision-making.
News organizations simultaneously published their stories that caused a public outcry regarding the unconsented collection of private data, and this prompted the UK and US politicians to seek answers from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Because of this data privacy scandal, Facebook has vowed to create the Clear History or the Off-Facebook Activity, a tool that will allow the users to turn off Facebook’s ability to store the information associated with their accounts. And on Data Privacy Day on January 28, 2020, almost two years after the incident, the Clear History has been finally launched.
Let us first take a deep dive to understand what happens when we clear our Off-Facebook Activity.
Facebook constantly tracks and monitors a user’s interaction with certain businesses and organizations, such as visiting their apps or websites, searching for an item, or viewing a content using their business tools, that will lead the users to a more relevant advertising. Off-Facebook Activity simply summarizes these activities that you’ve done, and clearing this will disconnect all your activities to your account.
However, doing this will still enable Facebook to gather information about your recent activity status, and you will still also receive the same amount or number of ads.
So again, clearing your Off-Facebook Activity will not delete your data on the third-party app that you have engaged or interacted with, but it will disconnect your data from your account. This will log you out of any app that you have logged in through Facebook.
If you are accessing through a laptop or desktop, simply click the little blue arrow on the upper right corner of your page, and choose settings. Then on the left side of the page, go to Your Facebook Information, and then choose Off-Facebook Activity. It is also the same with smartphones. Go to your settings, and scroll down until you find the Off-Facebook Activity.
Manage Your Off-Facebook Activity
Users can view the activities that were shared to Facebook by the businesses and organizations that you have visited through Facebook.
As mentioned, this is where you can disconnect the activity history that you have made from a third-party app or website.
Access Your Information
Here you can see categorized information about you such as the posts that you have shared, photos and videos that you are tagged in, the people you followed and are following you, payments you have made, and apps and websites you have logged into.
Download Your Information
You can download your information either complete or with just selected categories in which you can receive in either an HTML format or JSON format. And as part of Facebook’s Data Privacy, the user will have to provide their password upon downloading their information.
Manage Future Activity
This is where you choose to either save your Off-Facebook Activity or not. When you click this option, you will be redirected to a page where the toggle button is located, and view the apps and websites whose activity you’ve turned off.
You will also be redirected to a page wherein Facebook explains how this whole Off-Facebook thing works, and a tutorial on how to review and manage your activities, as well as the other aspects that you need to know.
In conclusion, clearing your Off-Facebook Activity will not delete anything, and Facebook will still have access and power to collect all your data. But this will disconnect the association of your account to the information gathered from you.
Are you bothered by the fact that Facebook has the ability to acquire the users’ data and use it to influence the ads that you commonly see on your feeds?
If so, what do you think about this new tool?
Do you think this is a huge step for Facebook to protect its users, or do you believe that they could have done more?