We know that Facebook likes to play Big Brother. It is by collecting, sharing and using your personal data that Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is worth more than $80 billion.
What you may not know is how much data Facebook and its allies collect about you, even when you’re not on Facebook. Now, thanks to Facebook’s publication of OFA (Off-Facebook Activity) tools, we can see more clearly what Facebook and its friends know about us.
Facebook presents OFA in Facebook mode to help you control your personal data. But the reality is darker. Facebook has in fact been forced to let you see more about how it uses your data and why it does so.
It all started when it was revealed that Facebook had shared its users’ data with Cambridge Analytica. This analysis company, in turn, used US user data to help elect Donald Trump.
Facebook said it didn’t know what was going on. It has since been shown that Facebook knew what Cambridge Analytica was doing before it was publicly disclosed.
For this reason, as well as other violations of privacy and security on social networks, California’s consumer privacy law now requires Facebook and other companies to tell you more about the data they collect and share about you.
In other words, Facebook had no choice but to finally be honest – or at least more honest – about what’s going on with your data.
In addition to your name and the fact that you love your grandmother’s cat photo – companies that use Facebook Business Tools, such as Facebook Pixel, the Facebook Software Development Kit (SDK), Facebook Login and Account Kit, also share what they know about you with Facebook. Specifically, they track you on these occasions:
- Opening an application
- Connect to an application with Facebook
- Viewing content
- Search for an article
- Add an item to a cart
- Make a purchase
Make a donation
In short, when you use Facebook, you’re really giving up your privacy in a way that would make Santa envious.
This is what it means in real life. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Facebook follows you on 30% of the top 10,000 websites. On my own account, I see that Facebook and its partners have data about me from 955 applications and websites that I have used or visited in the last 180 days.
Maybe that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll see that Facebook admits it:
For technical and precision reasons, this list does not present all the activity we have received. Activity that is not displayed includes information we receive when you are not logged in to Facebook, or when we cannot confirm that you have ever used Facebook on this device. It also includes details such as the item you have added to your shopping cart.
First of all, forget about the idea that Facebook deletes your data or even stops sucking it up. Yes, you can delete your Facebook history, but in fact it means you no longer see it (ah ah ah). Instead, Facebook indicates that your activity history will be disconnected from your account. We will continue to receive your activity from the companies and organizations you visit in the future. Isn’t that reassuring?
The only real solution is to delete your Facebook account. But even then, Facebook says it will take up to 90 days to delete all your data. But it doesn’t say what it does with your activity history.
What you can do now is sort of unplug the data that Facebook and its partners share about you. But even then, Facebook says: We will continue to receive activity from any site. It can be used for measurement purposes and to make improvements to our advertising systems, but will be disconnected from your account. You can trust Facebook if you want. I’m inclined to doubt it.
However, if you’re stuck on Facebook because that’s where your friends and family hang out, you might as well take advantage of DAOs. Here’s how:
First, go to the Non-Facebook Activity page. To view this page, you may need to enter your Facebook password. This is normal. Here you will find more information on how the DAO works.
I then recommend that you go to the Manage Your Non-Facebook Activities page by clicking on the link at the top of the right column. On this page, you’ll find all the sites and services with which Facebook shares data and vice versa.
To see exactly what each of them does, click on the ones that concern you. Since you probably have hundreds of them, I doubt you’d want to go through them all.
From the Manage Your Non-Facebook Activities pages at the bottom of the screen, you have the option to Disable future activities. Again, this does not prevent Facebook or the company from obtaining your data; it just breaks, in theory, the link between your Facebook identity and your data.
You can also simply Clear History.
You’ll find this option on the Manage Your Off-Facebook Activity page in the right column. It will disconnect your account from all sites and services that currently track you. But then again, that doesn’t erase anything. It only interrupts the link between your account and Facebook’s partners.
They and Facebook will continue to receive your activity when you visit their sites and services. If you do this, you may also be disconnected from any site with which you use a Facebook login to connect.
You’re not done yet. Go back to managing your activity outside of Facebook once again. There, click on More Options in the right column. Once this is done, towards the bottom of the column, you will see a link to manage your future activity. Click on it, and you will get another window with a button to, once again, Manage Future Activity.
From there, you get an option that says: Your future non-Facebook activity recorded with your account allows us to personalize your experience. If you disable this option, you will cut the connection between your account and all others more permanently. The only thing that will happen is that you will no longer be able to use Facebook to connect to third party websites.
In the end, Facebook and its friends will still be spying on you, but at least they will see through a black window instead of looking at you in the whites of your eyes.
Again, the only real way out of Facebook is to give it up. I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s the only way to make sure your data stays with you.