Off-Facebook Activity: What You Need to Know About Facebook Privacy Changes

by | Feb 12, 2020 | Digital Marketing

Have you ever wondered how Facebook always seems to know when you’ve been looking at a certain clothing brand or vacation destination online? Like other free-to-use social media platforms, Facebook partners with websites, apps, and retailers to track consumers’ online behavior and improve targeted advertising opportunities. While this has made getting products and services in front of the right consumers easier for brands, there have been concerns about whether or not this behavior tracking is a good thing for consumers—specifically when it comes to their online privacy.

After the implementation of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018 and the more recent California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)—which took effect early in 2020—brands and consumers alike may notice some changes to the way Facebook data is collected and used.

 

Here’s what you need to know…

How Facebook Privacy Has Changed

Back in 2018, Facebook was caught in the middle of a major breach of consumer trust when it was learned that they’d been selling consumer data to British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. It was a wake-up call for consumers, as they finally became aware of just how little control they had when it came to who got access to their personal information. In fact, a Pew Research survey in 2019 found that 74% of American Facebook users were unaware that social networks had been building databases with their information for targeted advertising. This left many consumers feeling violated.

Since the Cambridge Analytica news broke, the social media giant has promised that they would provide updates to their privacy policy, as well as more transparency into how their users are being tracked. But for the last 18 months, little was done on that front. Facebook did simplify their terms of service and privacy policy so that a “13-year-old could understand it,” but this still didn’t offer the necessary tools for its users to know what information was being tracked and collected—nor was there a way for Facebook users to opt-out of this data mining. Now, however, that seems to be changing.

Putting Facebook Users Back in Control

As the news of Facebook selling information to Cambridge Analytica broke, California’s government immediately got to work on passing the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). The law is designed to protect against the unwitting collection of data from California residents by businesses—and other states are now following suit by designing similar laws to protect their residents.

With the CCPA going into effect in January 2020, Facebook finally released a privacy tool called Off-Facebook Activity that allows Facebook users to see a summary of the information Facebook has received from other websites and apps about them. The tool also gives users the ability to disconnect this information on a site-by-site basis or entirely should they prefer not to be tracked.

While this can mean more privacy for Facebook users, turning off tracking does come with some downsides. One such downside is that apps and websites where consumers have used Facebook to log in—like Spotify, for example—will be disconnected. This particular feature might actually make Facebook users think twice about whether or not they want to turn off tracking.

Brands Can Still Succeed with Facebook Advertising

Even though consumers now have the option to turn off behavior tracking through the Off-Facebook Activity tool, brands will still have opportunities to connect with customers through the advertising platform. After all, Facebook doesn’t rely entirely on data collected from other websites for its targeted advertising solutions. It also uses page likes and follows, post engagement, demographic information provided in user profiles, and more from its own social network to provide targeting options for brands.

Not to mention, there’s a good chance that many Facebook users won’t turn off tracking simply because they don’t want to disrupt their current online experience. Consumers who prefer ads that are relevant to their interests and those who like the simplicity of connecting their Facebook profiles to third-party apps and websites are likely to continue using the social media network as they always have.

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