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You Don't Have to Let Facebook Track You Across the Web

We'll show you how to keep the giant social media platform from following you everywhere you go online.

Facebook logo on phone
The Off-Facebook Activity tool addresses privacy concerns.
Sarah Tew/CNET

You likely know that Facebook can track you across the web. But did you know there's a privacy setting that makes that easy to turn it off? It's called the Off-Facebook Activity tool and it's been around since 2019. It lets you see and control data that apps and websites share with the platform -- and monitor the kind of information third-party apps can access.

With the privacy feature, you can clear the history of apps and websites that have shared your data. You can also toggle off Future Off-Facebook Activity, which tells Facebook to disconnect any information the company has shared from your account. Or you can selectively choose which companies you want to stop sharing your activity with, and it'll stop showing those targeted ads.

Here's how to get a better grip on your Facebook privacy.

How to manage what sites share with Facebook using the Off-Facebook Activity tool

Using Facebook's business tools, you can see what information apps and websites have sent to the company. From there, you can clear the information from your account and turn off future "off-Facebook activity" tracking from your account. You'll be able to control this for all apps and websites so they'll no longer be able to share your search activity with Facebook.

To get started, go to Settings & Privacy > SettingsOff-Facebook Activity. From there, you can manage your Off-Facebook Activity, clear all history and turn off Future Off-Facebook Activity for your account.

What happens when you turn off Off-Facebook Activity

Once you clear the activity managed by the tool, Facebook will remove your identifying information that the apps and websites share. That means Facebook won't know which websites you visited or what you looked at, so you won't see targeted ads from those sites.

What else you can do to improve your privacy on Facebook

If you'd like to control which ads you see (or don't) on Facebook, go to your Settings on your phone or desktop and select Ad Preferences

Under Advertisers and Businesses, you can see which advertisers have run ads using a list uploaded to Facebook containing your information. If you select a company and choose Hide Ads, you won't see ads from advertisers when they use a list from that company.

You can also go to Ad Settings and turn off ads based on data from partners, ads based on your activity on Facebook Company Products that you see elsewhere and ads that include your social media actions. However, doing this won't delete any data and you'll still see the same number of ads as before. The Off-Facebook Activity feature is the best way to remove your data.

If you're an iPhone user, a feature introduced in iOS 14.5 called App Tracking Transparency requires you to give permission to apps including Facebook before they can use your data for targeted ads. (Here's how to use App Tracking Transparency.)

Want to know how to further control your privacy online? Here's how to find and delete your Google data now and the browser privacy settings you should change immediately. Plus, what digital security experts wish you'd do to protect your phone app privacy.