Facebook aims to assuage user trust concerns with Off-Facebook Activity tool

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Facebook is giving its users more guidance on data it holds on apps and websites interacting with the social giant.

The company is launching Off-Facebook Activity, which aims to ‘help shed more light on practices that are common yet not always well understood’, in the words of Erin Egan, Facebook chief privacy officer for policy and David Baser, director of product management.

Despite its dystopian name, users can see a summary of the information other apps and websites have sent Facebook, disconnect it from their account and do so for future ‘off-Facebook activity.’

“Many apps and websites are free because they’re supported by online advertising,” wrote Egan and Baser, “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.

“Off-Facebook Activity lets you see a summary of the apps and websites that send us information about your activity, and clear this information from your account if you want to.”

Facebook noted that this was another example of its efforts to bring more ‘transparency and control’ to the platform, including adding dialogue boxes such as ‘why am I seeing this ad?’ and ‘why am I seeing this post?’

Last year, as both the social giant and its users reeled from the Cambridge Analytica revelations, Facebook made a tool available for users to access and download the information Facebook had collected. For some, this was something of a Damascene moment. Writing for the BBC last June, Radhika Sanghani noted that she ‘deliberately created mementos… because [she] never understood Facebook’s small print.’ “I had no idea that it was creating this digital folder of my humiliating past,” wrote Sanghani.

Recent research has shown that social media users, particularly the post-millennial generation Z age, are unwilling to go along with brands who are only paying lip service to their ethics. A study from agency Hotwire, alongside Sapio Research, polled more than 6000 consumers last month and found two in five had already walked away from organisations who had violated their personal values.

Indeed, gen Z appears to have learned lessons from their elders and is savvier when it comes to understanding the horse trade between their digital rights and a free social service. London-based creative ZAK issued a report in July which argued the death of Facebook was ‘greatly exaggerated.’ “The post-millennial generation merely use the layers of social media with greater purpose and specific intent,” it added.

Writing for MarketingTech earlier this month Tom Chapman, publishing specialist at digital agency CandidSky, offered a pessimistic outlook when it came to marketers’ intentions post-Cambridge crisis. “From my own experiences, marketers seem to be treating the Cambridge Analytica scandal similar to a passing storm – and then returning to the practices which have earned the ire of so many individuals,” he wrote.

Off-Facebook Activity is currently being tested in Ireland, South Korea and Spain, with global availability promised in the coming months. You can find out more about it here.

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