Clear History

Ever Wonder How Facebook Tracks Your Browsing? This New Feature Lets You See Firsthand


February 17, 2020 Tech By

How many times have you been shopping online for something, like a sweater or a pair of headphones, only to be immediately served an ad for that exact same product the next time you opened on Instagram or Facebook? Probably plenty. It’s because those websites track your online activity and then send information to platforms like Facebook and Instagram, who then are able to show you hyper-relevant ads.

This kind of ad-targeting fuels much of the web that you are able to use for free, but if it understandably doesn’t sit well with you, Facebook’s feature lets you rein it in. “Off-Facebook Activity” gives you a window into which websites and apps are sharing information with Facebook, and a way to limit that behavior at least a little bit.

According to Facebook’s recent blog post, Off-Facebook Activity lets users not only see what apps and websites are sharing information with Facebook, but it also lets users clear that information from their history. So if you want to stop seeing ads of that jacket you just purchased, because you already purchased it, you can. You won’t be able to stop Facebook from gathering data about you unless you completely nuke your account (and maybe not even then), but you can at least start over new — and get a better idea of which businesses are sending information about you to Facebook.

To review (and clear) your off-Facebook activity:

• Log into Facebook and click the ‘down arrow’ in the top right of Facebook. Then click ‘Settings.’
• Select ‘Your Facebook Information’ in the left column.
• Select ‘Off-Facebook Activity’ to review the websites and apps sending data to Facebook.
• Select ‘Clear History’ to disconnect your browsing history from Facebook

Don’t expect clear your off-Facebook activity to have any huge difference on your Facebook activity. After all, once you start browsing websites and apps again they’ll continue to send Facebook data about you. That said, this new tool is able to shed a little more information about what kind of data Facebook is collecting about you, which is a start.

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Tucker Bowe

Tucker Bowe has been on Gear Patrol's editorial team since 2014. As a Tech Staff Writer, he tracks everything in the consumer tech space, from headphones to smartphones, wearables to home theater systems. If it lights up or makes noise, he probably covers it.

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