Hot on the heels of Google announcing it would phase out third-party cookies, Facebook has introduced one of its most significant privacy reforms to date.
First announced almost two years ago, Facebook officially launched ‘Off-Facebook’ earlier this week to coincide with Data Privacy Day.
It is essentially a clear history tool, showing users all the apps and websites (which can be in the hundreds) that have shared your data with Facebook and also gives the option to clear this data and turn off all future tracking.
Similar to cookies, Facebook tracks users across the internet using tools such as Facebook pixel, SDK and API.
These new changes mean users now have the ability to see and limit how they are being tracked.
Off-Facebook also shares information on how Facebook has received this data and the number of interactions received.
The transparency tool is designed to give users a greater sense of control when using their Facebook account.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained how it works.
“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,” he said.
“Now you can see a summary of that information and clear it from your account if you want to.”
Users that choose to clear their history will still see ads, however they will not be as personalised.
a problem for advertisers?
While Off-Facebook marks an important step towards improving data privacy for users, it also means advertisers have lost another signal for targeted ads.
Similar to erasing cookies on a web browser, advertisers lose access to data that can be used for targeted ads.
It’s a change that could theoretically change the very nature of advertising on Facebook.
But will it?
“Advertisers are unlikely to reduce spend on the Facebook platform as the reach of their platform is significant,” Goodway Group VP of growth Justin Orkin told B&T.
The key here is that Off-Facebook is an opt-in feature, meaning Facebook’s grand scale will mostly nullify any impact it has on advertising.
Whether or not it results in financial change, Off-Facebook again highlights the importance of privacy in online advertising.
“Facebook, like any other platform, or company, understand that they must be privacy compliant in an era where regulation of the big technology players is looming,” Orkin said.
“The key for Facebook, and any other social media platform is to give control back to the consumers when it comes to their data and privacy. People should be given a choice when it comes to privacy settings.”
Orkin also suggested the move could help Facebook avoid legal trouble down the track.
“We are seeing all the major players take pre-emptive steps to avoid harsh or punitive regulation that puts severe curbs on their commercial activity. This is a clear step by Facebook to head off restrictive legislation.”
what facebook says
In a note to business partners released last year, Facebook acknowledged the changes would impact ad targeting.
“When someone disconnects their off-Facebook activity, we won’t use the data they clear for targeting,” Facebook said.
“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 did confirm that measurement and analytics tools would remain in-tact, focussing on protecting user data.
And just like Google says the removal of cookies can create a better online ecosystem, Facebook also believes limiting tracking will result in a net positive.
“We believe that offering people greater transparency and control will ultimately have a positive, long-term effect on businesses using Facebook.”
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