Facebook is very good at collecting data about people, whether you have a Facebook account or not. They are also able to track you across the internet. Here's some options to limit Facebook tracking and collecting data.
When you're on Facebook, everything you do is monitored and recorded and stored somewhere. This includes private messages and URL's shared through Messenger. This allows them to amass a tremendous amount of data about anyone who has a Facebook account. In addition, Facebook compiles detailed dossiers on users, including user data they obtain from commercial data brokers.
One of the ways Facebook compiles information about users is the use of data points. Exactly how many data points Facebook uses remains an unknown and guesses range in number from 98 to 29,000, most of which are gleaned from the targeting options for Facebook advertisers.
You can see 98 of the data points at this site as a graph:
All the Ways Facebook Can Track You (I would urge anyone interested in privacy to read this. It's clear, well written, and not terribly long or technical)
Here's the list broken down into categories:
98 personal data points that Facebook uses to target ads to you
Among the list you'll find items like education level, location, anniversaries, hometown, property ownership information, employer, style and brand of vehicle you drive and what year it was purchased, whether you've donated to a charity, and much more.
You don't have to be on Facebook for them to compile information, Facebook collects data on non-Facebook users from those who use the service. These are called shadow profiles (which, to be clear, Facebook denies exist, but there is information that indicates otherwise going back some years.
Many people say their personal data isn't very important. What's missing from that is what Facebook does with all this data in aggregate, not individually. They collect granular data about each user, sort that data into demographic categories, and combine it with data acquired from other sources (commercial data brokers). They sell this data to advertisers, who are able to create their own demographic categories using the data Facebook has provided. Those advertisers can then create ads and other material tailored to you, delivered directly to you.
Facebook has a page that lists all the commercial data brokers they work with around the world. They provide opt out information for each broker, but it isn't easy to opt out of most of those services. Some require a written request, along with a copy of government-issued identification, sent via postal service in your country, before they'll remove your personal information. And since much of that information is gathered from publicly available services, there's no guarantee it won't reappear at some point.
(A journalist tried to opt out of all the commercial data brokers and was unsuccessful).
Facebook tracks where you go around the internet primarily through the "Like" and "Share" button on websites (when you're logged in) and through the "Facebook analytics pixel" on cooperating websites. It can track what you buy offline through what it calls "offline conversations" that partner with payment providers and retailer loyalty programs. You can read more here: How Facebook tracks your every move: Fact vs. fiction.
So, what can you do to limit Facebook tracking you across the internet?
Browser extensions are a good place to start.
Disconnect is my personal favorite, it works with Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera.
Ghostery is another good choice, it works with Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer.
If tracking isn't an issue for you and you want to clean up your Facebook page and see only what you want to see, Facebook Purity let's you control what Facebook displays on your timeline - it can hide sponsored posts and stories, trending topics, hide the chat interface, disable autoplay videos, alert you when friend statuses change, and more.
If you're technically inclined you can block tracking using the Hosts file on a PC (because there's no place like 127.0.0.1 <g>).
If you use a browser extension or add-on, it would be great if you would whitelist sites you like or find helpful. Sites like Gizmo's Freeware rely on advertising to keep the lights on and everything up and running. We're all volunteers here and whitelisting sites like ours will ensure we can keep doing what we're doing.
There are few options to limit the amount of information Facebook collects other than logging out of Facebook when you're not engaged, limiting the permissions from third party apps and managing your ad preferences.
I'm not saying using Facebook is a good thing or bad thing - it provides a lot of value to many people. In some places in the world it's the only internet access people have. Other people don't like it and will never use it. All those are valid. My point is that Facebook is there, and this is how it works. This is what you can do to limit the amount of data it collects on your activities, if that's something that you'd like to do.
You can find more Tech Treats here.
Please rate this article: