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Facebook tracks users, no surprises there. But how exactly? This is a million-dollar question. There are several instances reported across various websites where users have shared how they feel Facebook is tracking them by secretly recording or listening to their conversation.

Many a time it may happen that you plan to buy something in the morning and talk about it with someone and by evening Facebook starts showing relevant ads for the product.

That probably is not accurate. As in Facebook had in past denied that it uses a user’s phone microphone to listen to their conversation. But what does happen is that even if you search for a product or service away from Facebook, say for example on an e-commerce website, Facebook does and can track you.

Navneet, a law student, from Mumbai says that there have been many a time when he has searched for a product on any e-commerce website and Facebook starts showing the relevant ad. “Only a few days ago it happened. I was looking for a good beard trimmer on Amazon for myself and in the night while scrolling through my Facebook feed I was seeing ads for beard trimmers,”

So, what happens here? Contrary to what many believe, Facebook does not tap the phone’s microphone. There are other ways how the social media company is keeping an eye on you. The first and most obvious one is the location feature. When you download Facebook, the app asks for your location access approval, and many of us without clicking yes.

Facebook says it uses location information “to provide more relevant and personalised experiences, protect your account and provide better ads.”

To escape this tracking, at least somewhat, a user can switch off location access to the Facebook app. However, Facebook can still know your location by features like check-ins, events, and even by your internet connection. “Specific location information, such as your device’s GPS signal, and connection information, such as your Wi-Fi connection or IP address (Internet protocol address), help us understand where you are,” Facebook’s blog post once noted.

In the case of Navneet, he was using the same number to log into both his Facebook and Amazon accounts and that could be the reason why he was seeing ads in his Facebook feed.

In other words, Facebook uses third-party tracking. Benett Cyphers, a privacy researcher at Electronic Frontier Foundation which is a non-profit digital rights group based in San Francisco, writes that Facebook can track their use even when they are not using social media.

“Facebook uses Like button, invisible Pixel conversion trackers, and ad code in mobile apps to track its users nearly any time they use the Internet-even when they’re off Facebook products. This program allows Facebook to build nauseatingly detailed profiles of users’-and non-users’-personal activity,” he writes.

Another way how Facebook could be tracking users is through its Off-Facebook activity tool. This was launched by the company in the year 2020. It shows a list of apps, websites, businesses, and organisations that you have interacted with using your Facebook credentials.

In Facebook defence, it says that this tool helps it to offer users a more personalised experience. There is an option to disconnect your off-Facebook from your Facebook account but most of us are unaware that this tool exists or in many cases lease bothered to dig into our settings and make the changes.
If you don’t want Facebook to know your online activities or wish to at least limit your information accessible to social media, here is how you disconnect your off-Facebook from Facebook.

  • Log into your Facebook account and go to the Setting & Privacy page.
  • Click on Settings.
  • Click Your Facebook information in the left column and then click Off-Facebook activity.
  • Click on More and then select Manage Future Activity. You will be asked your Facebook password. Enter that and you will be shown a pop-up page again.
  • Click on the Manage Future Activity button and turn off your Off-Facebook activity.

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India today

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