Two years ago Facebook hinted at giving users an option to remove the browsing history utilized it us to deliver targeted ads at its annual F8 developer conference following the Cambridge Analytica Scandal. 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.”
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” as depicted below:
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?
There are several implications with regards to the advertising industry to note here. Primarily, giving users the onus to remove their details will inevitably make it harder for advertisers to retarget customers that visit their apps, websites, or make purchases in-store. In terms of measuring success, without these added specifics, it will likely be harder for brands to trace who was served an ad when and whether it was effective or not.
The good news? The majority of users will likely appreciate the gesture but not 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 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. “Whether it’s deleting cookies or clearing history, these tools typically get very little usage and have very little impact on marketers.
On top of this, and more importantly, while the majority of social media users have voiced growing concerns about not knowing when their data is being collected, by who, and how it is being used, the overwhelming preference remains: personalized advertisements that align with their needs, interests and values will always garner higher engagement than those 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.”
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