There's a Big Catch to Facebook's New "Privacy-Focused" Feature

Facebook's new tool allows you to delete tracking data, with one big caveat.
Chris Young

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg recently stated that the social media giant had changed its approach - they're all about privacy now.

Whether we believe him is, of course, another matter altogether. In any case, Facebook has rolled out its first step in its new "privacy-focused" journey.

As you can imagine, the new feature, which allows you to manage how third parties use your data, has already been heavily scrutinized by analysts worldwide.


Off-Facebook activity

Facebook has introduced an Off-Facebook Activity feature that allows users to manage data that apps and websites send to Facebook about you based on your user activity.

For example, are you tired of targeted ads? In principle, stopping this flow of data should stop you from getting an onslaught of targeted ads every time you look something up on the platform.

There's a Big Catch to Facebook's New "Privacy-Focused" Feature
Source: Facebook

In a statement, Facebook said: 

"We expect this could have some impact on our business, but we believe giving people control over their data is more important."

For the moment, the feature is only rolling out to Ireland, South Korea, and Spain. Other regions will see it in the "coming months" as Facebook tests its reliability - and the impact on its business, we imagine.  

A big caveat

As WIRED points out, there is somewhat of a loophole in Facebook's new feature.

Even if you use the tool to stop Facebook from using your browsing history for targeted ads, the company will still collect that information, and that data will be connected to your account for up to two days.

Hidden in a Help Center post behind a drop-down menu, Facebook clarifies: “Your future off-Facebook activity will be disconnected within 48 hours from when it's received. During this time, it may be used for measurement purposes and to make improvements to our ads systems.” 

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Furthermore, analyst Robinson Humphrey told CNBC that the “Off-Facebook Activity” feature “appears to fall somewhat short of the original pledge by CEO Zuckerberg of empowering users to ‘flush their history whenever they want,’ and delete all the relevant data. ” It seems that the data is disconnected but not deleted, analysts say.

Too little, too late?

While this new feature is a welcome addition, the fact that it took countless data scandals to get here leaves a little to be desired from the company. Facebook was recently fined a record $5 billion by the FTC with many analysts saying the fine was nowhere near high enough.

The list of criticisms against the company is so large, in fact, that they fill a Wikipedia page.

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