Facebook is “shedding more light” on the mysterious world of online advertising with its new ‘off-facebook’ feature, but the company is already warning advertisers it will impact targeting.
The company’s chief privacy officer policy Erin Egan and director of product management David Baser announced the launch of the new function overnight, which is set to begin being rolled out globally.
“Many apps and websites are free because they’re supported by online advertising. And to reach people who are more likely to care about what they are selling, businesses often share data about people’s interactions on their websites with ad platforms and other services,” the Facebook executives said.
“To help shed more light on these practices that are common yet not always well understood, today we’re introducing a new way to view and control your off-Facebook activity.”
The feature allows users to see and control the data that other apps and websites share with Facebook, which is gathered across the internet through the ‘Login with Facebook’ function, ‘Likes’ and embedded Facebook pixel code that hides in the background of certain websites and collects audience data.
With Off-Facebook, users can see a summary of all the data apps and websites have sent about them to Facebook, disconnect this information and choose to disconnect all data with the clear off-Facebook activity function.
Users can also tailor which apps and websites share their activity with Facebook.
The introduction of the new tool is on-brand with Facebook’s post-Cambridge Analytica privacy push and was actually first announced at last year’s Facebook developer conference, which took place just weeks after the scandal broke.
It was originally set to be a ‘Clear History’ feature (which it still is), however, Facebook opted to add in additional functions.
By providing more transparency to the workings of online advertising and giving users the option to opt-out of certain data collection, Facebook certainly risks hurting its profitability with the latest move.
Ahead of the announcement, Facebook issued a statement to advertisers, telling them point-blank “this feature may affect targeting”.
“When someone disconnects their off-Facebook activity, we won’t use the data they clear for targeting. This means that targeting options powered by Facebook’s business tools, such as the Facebook pixel, can’t be used to reach someone with ads,” Facebook said.
Whether this will scare off advertisers is yet to be seen, but with Facebook COO telling the media earlier this year “our bottom line is getting [Off-Facebook] right”, it could be argued the company is now prioritising privacy over profitability.
Off-Facebook is initially being rolled out in Ireland, South Korea and Spain, but will expand globally in the coming months.
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