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How to view (and delete) data sent to Facebook by third-party sites

Facebook, which highlights a new desire for transparency, now makes it possible to know which sites and agencies collect data about us and use it for targeted advertising on the social network. Dado Ruvic / REUTERS

To know how to protect your privacy, you still have to know who wants to observe it. To this end, Facebook announced on Tuesday 28 January that its approximately two billion users around the world will now have access to the identity of websites and applications external to the social network, but which communicate to it data collected to enable it to target its advertisements.

This online tool, called “Off-Facebook Activity”, also allows you to delete this data. The initiative had already been announced in August 2019, but its deployment was previously reserved for North America.

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Details of the sites and information transmitted

This tab offers “A new level of transparency and control” Facebook users welcomed CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a statement. “Other companies send us activity information on their sites and we use it to show you relevant ads. You can now see a summary of this information and delete it if you wish ”, he explains.

According to the findings of the World, the “Off-Facebook Activity” tab has been available in France since January 28 and allows you to see in detail which sites, mobile applications and companies have transmitted personal data about you to Facebook. For each of them, it is also possible to see the number of information transmitted, and the date of the last sending.

Companies collecting data online and communicating it to Facebook now appear in a dedicated page, with different options for deleting their history.
Companies collecting data online and communicating it to Facebook now appear in a dedicated page, with different options for deleting their history. Screenshot

The journalists of the section pixels For example, have noticed that many press sites, such as The Equipe.fr and that of World, had sent data about them to Facebook.

concerning The world, such data has been recovered using “social cookies”, the operation of which is explained in the site settings. They are for example present in the modules allowing to share an article on Facebook directly from the site of the World : When a player shares content like this, The world collects data which is then sent to Facebook.

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Other modules on the site also provide information on the activities of readers who are connected to their Facebook accounts (frequency of visits, sections consulted, etc.). All of this data is then used to The world as with other online media, calibrate promotional campaigns (subscription offers, announcements of new services, etc.) broadcast directly on Facebook.

Online data wholesalers

In the list provided by Facebook also appeared more obscure names. For example, digital communication agencies, such as Octavia, specialized in “Digital marketing based on data analysis”, or Socialyse, an agency content marketing created by the communications giant Havas, Or, more surprisingly, Sofinco, the Crédit Agricole brand specializing in consumer credit.

Joined by The world, Laurent Delahodde, social media manager at Socialyse, explains that this data sent to Facebook has been used by the agency on behalf of customers, retail chains, DIY stores and food brands. They were obtained through online surveys, trackers placed on merchant sites or videos, or even wholesalers specializing in online data collection (such as Adara or Exelate).

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Some data has also been directly transmitted to Socialyse by their customers, such as Française des jeux, which monitors downloads, for example. and the activity on its application. They were then sent to Facebook as part of targeted advertising on the social network. “Of course the data is not sold or crossed with other databases”, explains Laurent Delahodde, who ensures that web-marketing agencies like his do not have access to fine data. “It's anonymized, it's an audience pool that may be interested in our customers' products.”

Invitation to review its settings

In addition to showing which third-party sites and services send your browsing data to Facebook, the “Activity outside of Facebook” tool allows you to clear your connection history to external sites, as well as to prevent future connections between these sites and your account. This may modify the content of advertisements intended for you on Facebook. Checking this option will also disconnect the user from all the sites on which he uses his Facebook account as an identifier.

Facebook also specifies that it may then continue to receive data on your navigation, to a lesser extent: “It may be used for measurement purposes and to improve our system, but it will be logged out of your account”.

“One of our main goals for the next decade is to build stronger privacy protections for everyone” Mark Zuckerberg

Asked about the subject, Laurent Delahodde of Socialyse expects 5-10% of users to “disconnect” the link between their Facebook account and other sites. “It will have an impact on our campaigns”, he admits, while welcoming that Facebook “Put this information forward in a clear and limpid manner, in reaction to different cases”. “One of our main goals for the next decade is to build stronger privacy protections for everyone”, has justified Mark Zuckerberg in his press release related to this functionality – while Facebook is looking to restore its image after a series of scandals over its management of personal data, in particular that related to the Cambridge Analytica case in 2018.

“In the coming weeks, we will encourage nearly two billion people around the world to review their privacy settings”, he also announced. Facebook users will be invited to consult their data when they visit their accounts, as part of the “Confidentiality review” that the social network already offers.

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