Facebook’s New Off-Site Activity Tool Likely To Impact Marketers

Robert Williams, Mobile Marketer

August 21, 2019

Facebook introduced software that aims to let people better control the information gathered about their online activities outside of the social network’s ecosystem, according to a company blog post. Off-Facebook Activity lets users see information that apps and websites gather about them and share with the company, and prevent the data from being linked to their Facebook accounts.

The software has limitations, such as an inability to delete the outside information that apps and websites send to Facebook. The company will still gather the data anonymously to provide analytics and advertising conversion metrics. Facebook created what it calls “measurement IDs” for each account holder to help advertisers track the results of ad campaigns, per a more technical blog post.

Facebook also will continue to keep data about browsing activity on its social network and other apps, such as Instagram and Messenger. Off-Facebook Activity is rolling out in Ireland, South Korea and Spain and will be available worldwide in coming months. The tool is in the settings menu of the Facebook app.

Facebook’s privacy controls likely will have a negative effect on marketers that try to reach the social network’s users with targeted ads. It remains to be seen how many Facebook users will opt to wipe their outside browsing history and disconnect their accounts from future tracking, but marketers should be prepared for that possibility.

The social media behemoth has taken other steps to help advertisers reach target audiences, including the creation of the measurement IDs that anonymize user data while still offering the ability to track the success of ad campaigns.

The rollout of the Off-Facebook Activity tool comes a few weeks after the social network reached a $5 billion settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over privacy violations. Last year’s Cambridge Analytica scandal highlighted how Facebook had gathered personal information about 50 million people without their permission.

Since then, it has worked to improve data privacy amid growing regulatory scrutiny and stricter laws in regions such as the European Union. Self-regulatory measures may help Facebook avoid a stronger crackdown on its activities while still giving the company room to operate as a powerful marketing channel.

The Off-Facebook Activity tool provides consumers with more safety, security, knowledge, transparency and control while giving them access to news, entertainment, products and services, IAB CEO Randall Rothenberg said in an emailed statement.

“It’s an educational tool that can help teach people to navigate both the pleasures and perils of the vital technology we call the internet,” Rothenberg said of Off-Facebook Activity.

Facebook is braced for the potentially negative effects that its enhanced privacy tools will have on advertising sales. The company reported a 28% revenue gain to $16.9 billion in Q2 from a year earlier, shaking off negative headlines and the record-setting FTC fine.

Facebook aims to restore trust in the platform as part of its longer-term goals of improving the user experience and supporting revenue growth.

“If this were widely adopted, it would mean less overall revenue for Facebook,” David Baser, a director of product management at Facebook, told The New York Times about the Off-Facebook Activity tool. “And that’s O.K.”

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