How to stop facebook from monitoring your activity


The Off-Facebook Activity tool lets you see which websites are sending information about your web activity to the social network. Here's how to use it, as well as Facebook's updated Privacy Checkup tool.

Facebook has long offered a Privacy Checkup tool through which you can review and customize key settings and features, but a recent update gives you control over more options. Meanwhile, to manage what the social network knows about what you do online when you leave Facebook, the company rolled out an Off-Facebook Activity tool. Here's how to use both features.

What Is Off-Facebook Activity?

Facebook not only has access to your activity when you use the social network but also when you visit certain third-party websites. To help you manage that information, the new Off-Facebook Activity tool lets you review and delete the data collected about you when you’re using other websites or stop off-Facebook activity from being saved with your account entirely. You can also download the data to analyze it offline.

Off-Facebook activity includes any information that websites, apps, and organizations share with Facebook about your actions with them. This may be something as simple as visiting a specific website or app, or a more involved task such as searching for an item or purchasing a product. Facebook uses this information to serve you targeted ads.

By seeing your activity and choices on supported websites, Facebook can show you coupons and promotions you might find useful. For example, you might buy a pair of shoes from an online clothing store. That store shares your activity and purchase with Facebook, which saves it to your account. Facebook then serves you an ad with a 10 percent off coupon on your next purchase from that store.

Manage Off-Facebook Activity

If you're uncomfortable with this type of tracking, especially since it occurs when you’re not using Facebook, you can use the Off-Facebook Activity tool to manage this information. Access this feature by clicking the down arrow in the top right and selecting Settings. At the Settings screen, select the setting for Your Facebook Information and then click the option for Off-Facebook Activity.

Facebook displays the names of some sites that have shared your activity with the company and informs you how the company gains access to this kind of information. Get more details about your overall off-Facebook activity by clicking the "Learn More" link up top. Or click the icon for any site at the top to view your off-Facebook activity, then enter your password. 

The next page shows all the sites that have provided information on your activity to Facebook. Click a site to view specific details about that site.

Up top, you'll see "How Did Facebook Get This Activity?" The first drop-down menu will share how the site sent the data to Facebook; most of my links were sent via "Facebook's business tools," which includes the Facebook Pixel, the Facebook SDK, and Facebook Login.

If you wish to flag a site as inappropriate content or a misuse of your information, scroll to the bottom of the Activity Details screen and click the "Give feedback about this activity" link. Select a reason for the feedback and click Send.

If you no longer want this site to share your activity with Facebook, click the "Turn off future activity" link. A confirmation message explains what will happen if you turn off this activity. If you wish to proceed, click the Turn off button. 

A message tells you that future activity from this site has been turned off, but keep in mind that your past activity has not been disconnected.

Manage Past and Future Activity

You can manage both past and future activity from the Off-Facebook Activity screen by clicking Manage Future Activity. Read the information on how off-Facebook activity is used, then click Manage Future Activity to take control.

At the next page, you can view the activity you’ve already turned off. You can also turn off all future activity by toggling the switch next to "Future Off-Facebook Activity" to off.

You can also remove your entire off-Facebook activity history. Click the Clear History button at the top, then hit Clear History.

Download Off-Facebook Activity

To download your Off-Facebook activity, return to the Off-Facebook Activity page, and click "Download Your Information" on the right.

By default, the Download Your Information page selects all your Facebook data for download. At this point, there is no specific setting just to download your off-Facebook activity information. But certain categories, such Ads and Businesses, do include off-Facebook activity. You may want to select just Ads and Businesses as a first step to see what information it provides, or keep all categories selected to view all your Facebook data. After you’ve chosen the categories, click the Create File button at the top.

The page tells you that a copy of your information is being created. You also receive a notification by email. After the file is compiled and ready for download, you’ll receive another notification email. At the Download Your Information page, click the Available Copies tab, then click the Download button to save the information as a zip file. Unzip the file and open it to review the information. From the extracted files, open the index.html file. From there you can access and view whatever categories of information you downloaded.

Privacy Checkup

To run the latest version of Facebook’s Privacy Checkup tool, click the question mark icon in the upper right and select Privacy Checkup. At the Privacy Checkup window, click the first topic for "Who can see what you share."

Click Continue. At the Profile Information window, review the settings for your phone number, email addresses, and birthday. Click the button next to each setting and choose whether to change it to Public, Friends, Only Me, or a specific Facebook list. In general, you’ll want to set each of these to Friends, Only Me, or a specific list. When done, click Next.

At the Posts window, set the option for who should see future posts. You’ll likely want to set this to Friends. The Limit Past Posts option changes past posts that were seen by the public or friends of friends to only friends. To do this, click the Limit button and click OK. Then click Next.

Determine who should see your Facebook posts

At the Block screen, you can block a specific person from seeing things you post, starting conversations with you, or trying to add you as a friend. To do this, click the button to "Add to Blocked list" and type the name of the person or account you wish to block. From the list of suggestions, click the Block button for the correct person. Click Next.

Block the people you don't want to interact with on Facebook

Click the button to Review Another Topic. Then select the "How to keep your account secure" topic. Click Continue. At the window for Is Your Password Private, click the button to Change Password if you wish to change it to something more secure or you’re concerned that your password was compromised. Click Next.

change your password if you think it needs to be more secure

At the window for Turn On Alerts, turn on the switch for any alerts you wish to receive if you or someone else signs into your Facebook account from a new or different location. Click Next.

Get a warning when your Facebook account may have been compromised

Click the button to Review Another Topic. Then select the "How people can find you on Facebook" topic. Click Continue. At the window for Friend Requests, click the button if you wish to change who can send you friend requests. Click Next.

Set who can send you a friend request

At the Phone Number and Email window, decide who can look you up on Facebook by your phone number and email address. Click Next.

Click the button to Review Another Topic. Then select the "Your data settings on Facebook" topic. Click Continue. At the window for Apps and Websites, you can remove apps you no longer need or use to prevent the developer from further accessing certain Facebook data about you, such as a list of your friends. For any such apps, click the Remove button. At the confirmation window, click the Remove button. Click Next and you're done.

Stop apps and websites from sharing your data


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