Age of Awareness
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Age of Awareness

Facebook’s Creepy “Feature” That Tracks You Around The Internet

Facebook’s Creepy “Feature” That Tracked Me

Recently, I was looking at new homes for me and my future wife to settle down in. As a 25-year-old millennial, I typically like to look at larger homes out of my reach as a goal to shoot for. I’m an information security expert, and the President & CEO of The Penn Group, a cybersecurity company. I’ve been a Facebook user for over 10 years now, and an Instagram user for about as long. I’ve been concerned for a long time about Facebook’s privacy practices. For the security conscious, it is a bit of a paradox to care about your privacy but share intimate details about your life with the world’s largest marketing data company. I’m with it! Anyway, after I finished looking at some million-dollar homes, I tapped on Facebook to see what was happening with the world and noticed something peculiar. Although my privacy settings were set to not show targeted ads, I had an advertisement waiting in my News Feed about a nice home available for sale near me. Naturally, I did what any millennial would do, and I took to Twitter to voice my concern. Facebook was clearly violating their own privacy settings, but who was going to stop them?

Facebook’s Blatant Privacy Abuses

More Buried Privacy Settings

About a month later, I was doing some light reading about security and saw something that caught my eye. Facebook has alternative privacy settings buried deep within menus outside of the typical privacy settings menu. I began to investigate and what I found was shocking. More than 300 websites and apps were apparently “feeding” data back to Facebook, without explicit consent from the user. Facebook’s own explanation is that they use this information, fed from Facebook’s business tools, to serve targeted ads to their users. Curiously, these ads are still served to users regardless of the privacy settings found in a separate menu.

Step 1: Open Your Facebook App and Tap “Settings”

Scroll Down In Your Settings Menu and Tap Off-Facebook Activity

Step 2: Click On The “Clear History” To View Your Activity History

I had over 300 businesses and organizations before I clicked clear.

Click The Clear History Button

Step 3: Disable Future Collection of Your Data

Click “Manage Future Activity” then click “Turn Off”. Unfortunately, by disabling this feature, you will not be able to use “Login With Facebook”.

Facebook Likely Hid These Settings To Make It More Difficult To Disable.

Facebook Still Will Collect Your Data

If you read the copy on the turn off prompt, it states that Facebook will still receive your information from these businesses for “measurement purposes” and “to improve their ads systems”. Unfortunately, by disabling this feature, you will not be able to use “Login With Facebook”. It completely absurd that you cannot disable targeted ads, without also disabling one of their tentpole features. After all, they are the world’s largest marketing data sales company.

Austin Harman is the President & CEO of The Penn Group. He currently holds the coveted CISSP certification, in conjunction with the CCSP, CAP, and Security+ certifications from ISC2 and CompTIA respectively. He resides in Columbus, Ohio.



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Austin Harman, CISSP

Austin Harman, CISSP

An experienced cybersecurity leader serving as the President & CEO of The Penn Group. I hold the CISSP, CCSP, CAP, and Security+ certifications.