Facebook introduces new data tool to improve transparency

Screenshots of Facebook's new feature as displayed on a smartphone screen allowing users to see information collected on them from elsewhere

Screenshots of Facebook's new feature as displayed on a smartphone screen allowing users to see information collected on them from elsewhere

There, you'll see options to view what information other apps and websites share with Facebook, clear your browsing history, and disconnect your account from certain apps and websites or all of them in the future.

The social network said that when an activity has been cleared, Facebook won't know which websites a user has visited. It also won't change the metrics Facebook sends back to advertisers to tell them how well their ads work.

The new feature, part of a wider set of tools covering "off-Facebook activity", will not delete anything from Facebook's servers, instead simply "disconnecting" data from an individual user's account.

This may not be an annus horribilis over at Facebook HQ the way previous year was, but despite still having decent earnings and a semi-stable stock price, it kind of feels like the calm before the storm for the company right now.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the "clear history" feature more than a year ago.

The tools are being rolled out in Spain, Ireland and South Korea, with additional availability in the coming months, company officials said. They can also choose to disconnect future off-Facebook activity from their account: "You can do this for all of your off-Facebook activity, or just for specific apps and websites".

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Facebook said it expected the new tool would cost it revenue as it would impact its lucrative targeted-advertising business model.

Facebook is now launching an initiative to show what data it collects on users. The social network expects some impact on its business but believes giving people control over their data is more important.

The latest action comes as the company faces severe criticism from lawmakers and regulators over its privacy practices. The probe originated out of Facebook's alleged misstatements about how it collects, taps and shares information, chiefly through its entanglement with Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy that improperly accessed millions of users' personal data.

Soon, you could get fewer familiar ads following you around the internet - or at least on Facebook. The new tool shows users a list of businesses that have shared information with Facebook and details of how many times they have done so.

Is it available to Canadian users? It could be, for example, that friends or family members used their smartphone to look at a web page that later shared data with Facebook, she said in a blog post.

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