Photo Credit: wikipedia
After years of playing fast and loose with personal data and user information, it looks like Silicon Valley tech giant Facebook has finally decided that it’s time to go all-in on respecting personal privacy. Of course, the decision-making process was aided by the fact that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently hit Facebook with a whopping $5 billion fine, but still, better late than never. The latest personal privacy move by Facebook involves the creation of a new tool called “Off-Facebook Activity” that will enable Facebook users to control what sort of website and app tracking information is shared in order to serve up personalized, relevant ads.
Details of the new “Off-Facebook Activity” tool
To use the new “Off-Facebook Activity” tool, all you have to do is go over to “Settings” and hit “Off-Facebook Activity.” Once there, you’ll see a list of all the websites and apps that are tracking you as soon as you leave Facebook – and you’ll also have the option of turning off some of that tracking by hitting “clear history.” Facebook refers to this as “disassociating” your web browsing and app-using behavior from your Facebook account.
The use of the word “disassociating” is for a reason – Facebook is not actually going to stop tracking you, and it is not actually going to be deleting any data. You see, there is “On-Facebook activity” (which won’t go away) and there is “Off-Facebook activity.” To stop tracking off-Facebook activity, the company is making changes to how data is being stored on its servers, but not actually deleting it. In its description of the new “Off-Facebook Activity” tool, Facebook never uses the word “delete.” So don’t think that Facebook has given up on its plans to monetize as much Facebook user data as possible.
A new and improved Facebook experience
However, you will have the piece of mind that certain ads won’t follow you around the web every time you open up your Facebook account. For example, under the current system of targeted advertising, websites send back regular reports to Facebook about your browsing behavior. If you have a Facebook account, chances are good that you’ll eventually be shown some sort of ad for a product sold by those websites. So, if you’ve been browsing new Fall or Winter outfits on an e-commerce retailer, you’ll probably be shown ads for some of those products whenever you’re in Facebook. Once you “disassociate” your account, those sorts of ads should start to disappear.
The future is user privacy
Overall, it looks like “privacy” is becoming part and parcel of many tech firms’ marketing initiatives, and Facebook is being forced to follow suit. For example, both Google and Apple have launched some high-profile privacy initiatives lately, and now Facebook must also show that it is sincere about respecting user privacy. For now, this new “clear history” tool will only be rolling out to Spain, South Korea and Ireland, but plans are for this to eventually roll out worldwide to all Facebook users.
In the short- and medium-term, Facebook could see a hit to advertising revenue if enough users make use of the tool. But in the long-term, Facebook will likely find yet another way to monetize your personal data, so don’t feel too bad for Mr. Zuckerberg & friends.