Shock, horror, Facebook collects and sells your personal data... OK, so nobody is stunned. But this week the social network opened the doors for users to access its tool for seeing which third-party apps and websites collect what - and it's terrifying!
Facebook calls it its "Off-Facebook Activity" tool. It essentially allows its users to now manage and delete the data that third-party websites and apps have been collecting on them. You can also download the data and browse every detail if you want to really make your eyes bleed.
"You should be able to easily understand and manage your information, which is why strengthening your privacy controls is so important," Mark Zuckerberg wrote about the move. "We'll have more to share as we continue to make progress on this important work in the decade ahead."
It's a positive move from the controversial social network. After all, giving users more control over their data has to be a good thing. But there has been one unexpected downside to this progressive decision - it has opened a lot of users' eyes to what exactly they had been giving away in return for using Facebook.
Facebook has the power to pull data from apps and websites that feature its interaction tools such as like buttons and sharing options (this website included) and everything from your location to your browsing history, what's on your shopping list, and whether you swiped left or right on Tinder is collected. Facebook then breaks this down and sells it to advertisers who want to target certain demographics. This is the cost of our "free" web in 2020.
And yet, despite the fact that we all know of this, since the new privacy tool launched this week some in our editorial office have still been shocked by the sight of this third-party data breakdown. Not that it exists, but at the extent of what data is being collected, by which third parties, and in such quantities.
Others have been left bamboozled by the data itself. Stefan's dataset, for example, shows entries for data sent from TikTok to Facebook fairly regularly at 6:00 in the morning, despite the fact he hasn't used the apps for months and that he is not an early riser and is almost never on his phone at this hour. Other data entries are incredibly vague in their nature, with the time and date being the only readable part. The "event" itself, as Facebook calls it, is often just tagged as CUSTOM, or sometimes PURCHASE.
The other complicated issue here is that the Clear History option doesn't stop third parties sharing your data with Facebook, it simply resets the clock to zero, only for it to begin all over again.
We're going to be digging into this deep and complex issue in more detail over the coming weeks. For now, share your experiences with this new Facebook tool in the comments below. Have you had a look at what third-parties are sharing with Facebook on your smartphone?