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Facebook can track you across the web. Here's how to stop it

No, the Off-Facebook Activity tracking rumor is not a hoax. Here's how to keep the social media platform from tracking your web browsing.

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The Off-Facebook Activity tool addresses privacy concerns.

Angela Lang/CNET

If you haven't been using the privacy feature Facebook introduced last year, now's the time to start. It's called Off-Facebook Activity and 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 turn 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 and it'll stop showing you those targeted ads.

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

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The Facebook tool allows you to control which sites share your information.

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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" 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 > SettingsYour Facebook Information > Off-Facebook Activity. From there, you can manage your Off-Facebook Activity, clear all history and turn off any future activity to your account.

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What happens when you turn off activity managed by Off-Facebook

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 any targeted ads from those sites. 

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Turn off your activity.

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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. By selecting a company and then choosing Don't Allow, 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 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 and have upgraded to iOS 14.5, a new feature 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 in iOS 14.5.)

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