What the New ‘Off-Facebook’ Activity Tool Really Means for Advertisers and Users



Users can now trace the data other apps and websites collect and share with Facebook. How will this influence the advertising industry and consumer behavior trends?


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Two years ago, during Facebook’s F8 developer conference, Facebook hinted at giving users an option to remove the browsing history utilized it us to deliver targeted ads. Fast forward to today, and after several unexpected delays, the platform is pulling the trigger officially. In doing so, it is making a pretty firm stance on the evolution of a permission-based, personalized future.

The Off-Facebook Activity: What is it and how to use it?

The platform is introducing the “Off-Facebook Activity” menu available to users on a global scale where they have the option to:

  • View a summary of the information other apps and websites have sent Facebook
  • Disconnect this information from their account
  • Disconnect future off-Facebook activity from their account (this holds for all off-Facebook activity or only specific apps or websites

“Other businesses send us information about your activity on their sites, and we use that information to show you ads that are relevant to you. Now you can see a summary of that information and clear it from your account if you want to. Off-Facebook Activity marks a new level of transparency and control,” explained CEO Mark Zuckerberg in the announcement.

Now that you’re briefed on what the new feature enables, here’s a quick run-down of how to use the feature.

To begin, click on the drop-down menu in the top right of the desktop version of Facebook. Then, select “Settings” followed by “Your Facebook Information.” You’ll then be presented with an option for “Off-Facebook Activity.”

Once you select “Off-Facebook Activity,” you will be given the options to “Manage Your Off-Facebook Activity,” “Clear History.”

You can also select “More Options” to access your information, download your information, or manage future activity.

From there you can browse all of the websites sharing your information with Facebook and decide whether to clear your history and remove this information from your account, strip the tracking for specific sites, or disable this tracking in entirety. Full disclosure — by turning off the tracking Facebook says you’ll still see the same number of ads and it can receive information about your activity, it just won’t be associated with your account. In other words, the ads you are fed will be less personalized.

What does this mean for the advertising industry?

Advertisers are paying attention to this update for a few reasons including:

  • It’ll make it harder for them to retarget customers that visit their apps, websites, or make purchases in-store.
  • They’ll have more difficulty tracing who was served an ad when and whether it was effective or not.

It’s likely that the majority of users won’t take the time to go through and remove the traces to the large number of websites who have collected it over the years. Several advertisers who have already spoken out anticipate the adoption of the feature among the public will be limited.

“Consumers have a track record of apathy when it comes to actively managing their privacy,” said Aaron Goldman, CMO at marketing technology company 4C in a statement to Mashable. This is due mostly in part to the fact that younger generations would rather share their information for personalized ads than be exposed to ads that are irrelevant.

“You should be able to easily understand and manage your information, which is why strengthening your privacy controls is so important. We’ll have more to share as we continue to make progress on this important work in the decade ahead,” Zuckerberg’s post concluded.

Learn more about Privacy Matters as part of our 2020 global theme: HUMAN.X and help us establish a human-first, experience-driven approach to digital marketing. Secure your early-bird discount today to save 20% on your full-conference pass to #SMWNYC (May 5-7, 2020).


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