Andy Crouch - Code, Technology & Obfuscation ...

See Who's Sharing Your Data With Facebook

Photo: Unsplash - Kon Karampelas

Facebook divides opinion. It defined an entire technology genre and has since gone on to become one of the leading online marketing and advertising platforms. This is something that a large percentage of their users do not realise. People are sharing their entire lives and personalities on the platform while sacrificing this data to be able to keep in touch with friends and family. They then seem surprised when an advert appears that relates to them.

In January Facebook finally released the Offline Activity tool. This allows you to see which companies share data with Facebook about you and your browsing habits away from Facebook. This data sharing has been enabled as part of the Facebook Business Tools for some time. This meant that when I go clothes shopping, for example, a site will share what I have browsed for and what I finally purchased. This explains why the adverts you see are so targeted. Of course, to increase the chance of you clicking an advert much higher, Facebook wants as much data about you as it can get. If they know you well enough, they can ensure the adverts you see are relevant and appealing. The downside to this is that any site can embed these tracking tools. This could include fake news sites or sites that have dubious intentions.

The good news is that you can disable who can share data with you. Like all Facebook Privacy controls it is well hidden and not promoted. To see what data they have on you:

  • Click the menu at the top right of Facebook and then select Settings & Privacy.

  • Click Settings.

  • Look in the left-hand column of the page and you should see a menu item called “Your Facebook Information” which you should click.

  • In the main page content, you will see Off-facebook Activity. Click this link.

Once you are are in the Off Facebook Activity page you can view who has been sharing your browsing habits with Facebook. You can also clear the history of this shared data and update your settings to prevent them from collecting this data.

From a data privacy point of view, the less Facebook knows about me the happier I am. While I do have an account it is only to stay connected to a very specific group of people. To do that should not mean I have to sacrifice my privacy.

If you have any thoughts about Facebook or the way they value revenue over privacy let me know via twitter or email.