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What is Facebook's New Off-Facebook Activity Tool?

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Mark Zuckerberg made a vow to shed light on the ways Facebook collects and analyzes user data. Rallying behind his post-Cambridge Facebook post where Zuckerberg echoed the statement "We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can't then we don't deserve to serve you," the team at Facebook has been hard-at-work developing solutions aimed at giving users control and visibility over their data.

Last week, Facebook launched a tool called "Off-Facebook Activity," which allows users to monitor and delete data that third-party websites and apps have shared with Facebook. A "clear history" tool was first promised in 2018, and the first version of Off-Facebook Activity was launched overseas in key demographic markets back in August of 2019.

Many will find the amount of data that Facebook collects from 3rd parties shocking. However, providing this tool (and its subsequent deletion option) available to the +2 billion Facebook users is an important step towards data privacy from the social media app that's committed to a transparent future.

What is Off-Facebook Activity?

Have you ever seen a hyper-relevant ad on Facebook and thought that Facebook was listening to you through your smartphone speakers? You're not alone. This new Facebook feature should help calm your nerves. Thousands of businesses (over 30% of the top 1,000 websites) are sharing data with Facebook, and the vast majority of apps you've downloaded on your smartphone are probably transmitting data to Facebook. All of this data (in addition to Facebook's already-powerful algorithm) helps Facebook display relevant ads to billions of users everyday.

Thankfully, you can now see which businesses are sharing your data. Facebook's Off-Facebook Activity setting has launched globally, and it should be available in everyone's settings. You can dig deep and discover which apps are sharing your data. Plus, you can prevent further third-party data sharing if that's what you'd prefer.

It's a smart step for the social media giant. Over the past few years, Facebook has been in the news a lot for some not-so-awesome things, but they are hard-at-work to correct these things. Whether it's an updated data privacy policy, a larger emphasis on Friends & Family in the news feed, GDPR compliance features, or upcoming political ad minimization settings, they have been making a slew of updates aimed at increasing privacy, reducing ad intrusion, and minimizing data collection's impact on the end-user.

Why is Off-Facebook Activity Important?

Giving users a window of visibility into how (and which) third party apps and websites are sharing data with Facebook is obviously a win for consumers. People get to stay informed about the ways their data is consumed, and Off-Facebook Activity allows users to delete and prevent data from being utilized for ad tech purposes.

What does it mean for businesses and marketers?

The honest answer is that it will impact ad targeting. That's a given. We just don't know how much it will impact ad targeting.

It also makes Facebook a safer place for both marketers and users.

While Facebook isn't allowing its third-party pixels to share financial or medical information, many users simply don't want Facebook to share their data. Which is understandable! The age of data misuse and abuse is coming to an end. Google is removing third-party cookies, Twitter is adopting broad data compliance policies, GDPR and CCPA are in full force, and 81% of the American public says that the cons of data collection outweigh the benefits of targeted advertising.

It's time for marketers to embrace the change. If anything, this change positions Facebook as a safe and effective advertising platform. You don't want to throw money at an ad algorithm that's causing privacy frictions with users. 71% of social media users feel worried about the ways that brands are using their data while brands that are upfront about their data collection policies see a 40% engagement boost.

As Facebook continues to wage war against privacy frictions, brands are set to reap the bulk of the rewards in the form of consumer trust. What's the value of putting out the most targeted ad on the planet if consumers feel negatively towards your brand for positioning the ad in the first place?

How to Check Your Off-Facebook Activity.

We urge everyone to go and check out the tool. See how Facebook is tracking your data. It's certainly interesting.

Recently, a few of our team members took a dive into Facebook's new tool to see how many third-party sources were sharing our data with Facebook. At the CMG Digital office, we had a little competition to see who had the most third-party shares….drumroll please…

  • Joseph Naylor (Sr. Director of Product and Data Advertising) - 204
  • Jesse McCambridge (Sr. Director of Digital Revenue & Sales Strategy) - 224
  • Pete Stafford (Director of Product Management) - 296
  • Ginger Gatewood (Social Product Manager) - 304
  • Kyle Fennell (Social Campaign Management Team Lead) - 396
  • Selena Bauman (Sr. Director of Digital Campaign Operations) - 535

And the winner (or is it loser?) of the contest was.... our Marketing Coordinator Allie Farnen with 604!

Final Thoughts

We love this update! More privacy is good for businesses, consumers, and Facebook. Though plenty of people are going to get angry or scared that Facebook is collecting as much data as they are but they're the first social platform to give users this level of visibility into third-party data collection. Plus, they're giving users the ability to disable all of those third-party collection efforts.

We're happy to continue to use ads on a platform that's honest with its users. Marketers shouldn't see this as the downfall of ad tech. It's the mark of a new era for data transparency. What's not to love about that?

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