How Facebook stalks you — even when you’re not using Facebook

A column in the Washington Post today explains Facebook's new "Off-Facebook Activity" tool and suggests privacy settings you can change.

Ever suspect the Facebook app is listening to you? What we now know is even creepier. Facebook is giving us a new way to glimpse just how much it knows about us: On Tuesday, the social network made a long-delayed “Off-Facebook Activity” tracker available to its 2 billion members. It shows Facebook and sister apps Instagram and Messenger don’t need a microphone to target you with those eerily specific ads and posts — they’re all up in your business countless other ways.

Even with Facebook closed on my phone, the social network gets notified when I use the Peet’s Coffee app. It knows when I read the website of presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg or view articles from The Atlantic. Facebook knows when I click on my Home Depot shopping cart and when I open the Ring app to answer my video doorbell. It uses all this information from my not-on-Facebook, real-world life to shape the messages I see from businesses and politicians alike.

You can see how Facebook is stalking you, too. The “Off-Facebook Activity” tracker will show you 180 days’ worth of the data Facebook collects about you from the many organizations and advertisers in cahoots with it. …

Facebook’s new tool isn’t nearly as useful as your Web browser’s clear-history button — it doesn’t let you reset your entire relationship with Facebook. But along with the transparency, it does give you a way to unlink some of its surveillance from your Facebook account.

The full article is here.

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