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Steps to stop Facebook tracking
© Andrey Popov |
Security & privacy

Facebook watches your every move – Here’s the proof

It shouldn’t surprise you that social media networks know a lot about you. After all, giants like Facebook know where you go, which TV shows and films you enjoy and who your friends are. That’s because you willingly gave up that information.

But there are other pieces of data that Facebook gathers behind your back. Generally, you have the option to turn it off, but social media platforms rarely tell you about it. Why? Well, it helps them pinpoint your location or interests to serve you with targeted advertising.

Keep reading to find out how much information Facebook has on you and ways to get some privacy back.

Here’s the backstory

Targeted advertising happens when Big Tech companies have data sets on your habits. That’s why you’ll see ads for that new car you searched for online or posted about on Facebook.

But that can also happen through your location. For example, if you are near a beach, there is a good chance that you’ll see ads for ice cream or swimwear.

Facebook knows where you are all the time, but even scarier is that it stores the data on your profile. All of this helps with building your targeted advertising profile. The ads will slowly shift to fit in if it senses a habit or routine.

What you can do about it

Luckily, there is something that you can do about it. Your location history isn’t kept in a guarded vault but is easily accessible on your profile. Here’s how to do that on a desktop computer:

  • Click on the arrow pointing down in the top-right corner.
  • Click Settings & Privacy, and then Settings.
  • On the left panel, select Your Facebook information. Then click Access your information.
  • In the left panel, click on Logged information and then Location history. NOTE: You might be asked to enter your password to access Location history.

This process will bring up a screen of all the places Facebook tracked your location. You can turn off the setting to deny Facebook access to your GPS location, which will stop the tracking.

But there is more good news. When you click on location settings to manage your data, you’ll see a screen that Facebook quietly updated in May 2022.

“The location history setting is no longer available, and the experiences it made possible have been disabled, even if your setting was previously enabled,” it reads.

It seems that parent company Meta turned off automatic location tracking on May 31, and a Facebook spokesperson said it was “due to low usage.” While you can manually delete your location entries, the social media platform will completely delete stored location history on Aug. 1, 2022.

Other settings to turn off

As it comes under fire for some of its business practices, in November last year, Facebook decided to stop collecting facial recognition data and purged the information for its databases.

Choosing ad topics

While you are tinkering with Facebook settings, there are others that you should turn off, too. For example, you can enable or disable the topic in the Ad preferences menu to stop specific ads.

  • Click on the arrow pointing down in the top-right corner.
  • Click Settings & Privacy, and then Settings.
  • Scroll down on the left panel and click on Ads and then Ad topics.

On the Ad topics page, you’ll see a list of topics in which Facebook thinks you’re interested. Delete the topics that you don’t want to see ads for in the future.

Stop off-Facebook activity tracking

Meta also keeps track of what you do on other websites, not just Facebook. According to the description, this data “includes information that businesses and organizations share with us about your interactions with them.”

For example, it shows you which websites and services you logged into with your Facebook credentials or interacted with while signed in.

While you can’t turn it off, you can clear the activity history or select future activity to disconnect. Here’s how to access that menu:

  • Click on the arrow pointing down in the top-right corner.
  • Click on Settings & Privacy, and then on Settings.
  • In the left panel, click on Your Facebook information.
  • On the center screen, click on Off-Facebook activity.

On the next page, click Recent activity to see where you signed in lately. From there, you can delete the data or change how Facebook collects it in the future.

Do this by choosing Clear activity history or Select future activity to disconnect and check the button next to apps and websites you don’t want to be saved to your account.

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