09:00 GMT +311 December 2019
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    Computer screens display the Facebook sign-in screen in this photo illustration taken in Golden, Colorado, United States July 28, 2015

    Facebook Knows What Kinds of Porn You Watch, New Tool Lets You Find Out What Else They Know

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    Last month, a spokesperson for online pornography giant PornHub attempted to play down concerns over the tech giants’ tracking of users’ kinky online preferences, insisting that his company does everything they can to ensure their users’ “confidentiality and privacy” despite its liberal use of tools such as Google Analytics.

    Facebook users from Ireland, South Korea and Spain have been given access to ‘Off-Facebook Activity’, a new tool allowing users to see what kinds of information the social media giant collects about them off-site.

    The company ‘fishes’ for your browsing data via a number of tools, including ‘Facebook Pixel’, a small piece of code embedded into millions of popular website, along with the ‘Login with Facebook’ button, the ‘Like’ button, ‘Facebook comments’, and more. Along with the info collected on users while they’re on the platform itself, this data – showing everything from your political affiliation to your online shopping activity to what kinds of pornography you watch, enables Facebook to customise its ads based on these preferences. It’s estimated that up to one third of all popular websites make use of Facebook’s tracking-enabling tools.

    The company began the rollout of its ‘Off-Facebook Activity’ tool in test markets on Tuesday, over a year after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled plans for a new tool known at the time as ‘Clear History’ to allow users to delete data the company has collected on them from other sites and apps amid fallout over vast user data breach scandals, including Cambridge Analytica, which saw the personal data of around 87 million users harvested by the analysis firm to target users with political advertising.

    The ‘Off-Facebook Activity’ tool, limited to Ireland, South Korea and Spain for now but set to be unveiled in other markets over the coming months, can be found in Settings > Off-Facebook Activity, and shows you the websites which have the bits of Facebook tracking codes embedded on them, along with the ability to opt out of future off-Facebook activity tracking, and to “clear” your browsing history.

    However, Facebook’s chief privacy czar explained in a company blog post that the browsing data itself isn’t being deleted – but simply being dissociated from your account.

    Earlier this week, Facebook explained that the delays in rolling out the new feature were caused by engineers’ having to rebuild the way browsing data is indexed. Facebook spokespeople speaking to Wired admitted that the decoupling of targeted ads may harm the company’s bottom line, since it would make ads less effective.

    Last month, following the release of a new study showing tech giants including Google and Facebook were tracking users' porn website visiting habits, PornHub VP Corey Price stressed that his company "only uses Google Analytics to track activity," rather than individual users, "on its platform."

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