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Here’s how to see where Facebook follows you around the web—and how to make it stop

Here’s how to see where Facebook follows you around the web—and how to make it stop
[Photo: Fabian Irsara/Unsplash; Andrew Stutesman/Unsplash]

Facebook has finally rolled out a tool it promised to users all the way back in 2018. Called “Off-Facebook Activity,” the tool shows you a list of all the various websites and apps sending data to Facebook about you and allows you to disconnect those websites and apps from sending any more of your data to Facebook.

What’s unnerving about this tool is it reveals just how much data Facebook is collecting about you from sources you wouldn’t even dream of. These sources can include websites and apps you’ve never directly connected to your Facebook account (such as you would if you logged in via Facebook to those sites and apps).

The good news is the tool is rolling out globally starting today, and it allows you to “disconnect” this constant flow of data about you to Facebook. But just what does “disconnect” mean? As you might have guessed, Facebook will still receive data from those apps and websites, but that data will no longer be associated with your account or, presumably, be able to be connected to you in any way. As Facebook says on its website for its new Off-Facebook Activity tool:

The information you disconnect will no longer be connected to your account. This data can still be used without being linked to an individual user to allow us to let businesses know how their website, app or ads are performing.

Here’s how to find the new tool:

  • On Facebook’s mobile app: Tap the hamburger (three bars) icon, then go to Settings & Privacy > Settings > and under the “Your Facebook Information” heading tap “Off-Facebook Activity.”
  • On a desktop web browser: Go to facebook.com and from the menu bar dropdown arrow, click Settings. Then click “Your Facebook Information” and click “Off-Facebook Activity.”

So how do you use the new Off-Facebook Activity tool?

  1. Once you’re in the “Off-Facebook Activity” tool you’ll see a list of all the apps and websites sending data to Facebook about you. Click any item on this list to find out more information about who is sending your data to Facebook.
  2. Under the “What You Can Do” header on the page, tap or click “Clear History.” This will disconnect off-Facebook activity history from your account. However, those same apps and websites will still send data to Facebook.
  3. If you want to disable any and all future off-Facebook activity from being associated with your account, click or tap the “More Options” header and then select “Manage Future Activity.” On the Manage Future Activity screen toggle the “Future Off-Facebook Activity” switch to OFF (white), then confirm your selection by tapping or clicking the “Turn Off” button.

To be sure, Facebook still collects a massive amount of data about users, but this new privacy tool is a step in the right direction for the company. Let’s just hope similar tools are coming soon.

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