Facebook will now let you “clear" your data - but there’s a catch

(Image credit: Facebook / The Scientist)

Facebook just rolled out its "Off Facebook Activity" feature worldwide, to the relief of millions of users concerned about their data privacy. But be warned - you may be shocked by which apps and websites Facebook has linked to your account, and how many. 

Facebook tracks its users' internet activity through cookies and computer scripts enabled on third-party websites and apps. That's how you end up seeing ads related to your recent searches or purchases. These targeted ads are designed to get you to click, whether it's to browse a website or to buy a product. In a nutshell, Facebook has been watching our every move on the internet. Now, thanks to the "Off Facebook Activity" feature, you can limit how much of that activity Facebook can see, but only to an extent. 

How do I turn on "Off-Facebook Activity"?

The feature, which was previously released only in Ireland, South Korea, and Spain, can be easily accessed by following these instructions. 

  • Open your settings panel
  • Scroll to the section labeled "Your Facebook Information"
  • Tap "Off-Facebook Activity"


(Image credit: Facebook)

From there, you have several options. You can opt to clear your entire history, or manage which third-party apps and websites can still access your data, and which can't. When we opened ours, we were shocked by just how many sites sent information to Facebook after we accessed them - nearly 1,000 websites and apps per person. Remember: even accessing a site once can add to the amount of information Facebook is able to get about you. 

If you choose to "clear history," Facebook will log you out of third-party apps that allow you to log into Facebook. 

The third option, "turn off future activity," prevents Facebook from connecting data they receive from businesses and organizations to your account. It will also prevent you from using Facebook to log into other apps. 

But wait, what's the catch?

Don't be fooled: enabling the "Off Facebook Activity" feature doesn't mean that the social media giant  stops collecting information. It just means that the data received won't be tied to your Facebook ID. 

Protecting your data 

Facebook has a long way to go in terms of user privacy, but this is a first step in the right direction. It's now more important than ever to protect our personally identifying information which, by various means, can end up on the internet or the Dark Web. From shopping to online dating, anything from your name to your Social Security Number can be bought and sold online. As we spend more and more time online and perform more of our regular tasks on the internet, it's important to invest in important measures like opting for one of the best identity theft protection services. 

Sophie Kaemmerle

Sophie is a born and bred New Yorker who, paradoxically, loves being in the great outdoors. Her favorite pastimes include running, baking, and writing. She also spends her time volunteering and leading volunteer projects with the Good+ Foundation and Achilles International when not providing information on the best deals, products, and services on the internet to TopTenReviews readers.