The new tool lets people "clear" this "off-Facebook activity" data from their account and opt out of the information being used for targeted advertising.
Total costs and expenses surged 34 per cent to US$12.22 billion in the fourth quarter, more than double the 14 per cent that analysts had forecast and dragging down operating margins to 42 per cent from 46 per cent a year earlier.
Facebook says it is able to offer its platform for free because of the money it earns from advertising.
The share price fell from $223, Facebook's highest-ever point, to trade at around $210 on Thursday.
When businesses and organizations pass your activity to Facebook, they're also passing it to Instagram. Lists apps and websites that shared information with Facebook. Facebook says businesses won't know you clicked on their ad - but they'll know that someone did. Here's a newsflash: Facebook doesn't need to listen to your conversations.
What happened to other apps on Facebook?
The tool also allows you to manage activities on websites shared with Facebook and provides a list of each app and website the site tracks when you are not using it. This means the information that identifies who they are can be separated from their off-Facebook-activity.
We're learning about one less obvious side effect: Facebook will forget your log-in and password to news websites. Those ads for pillows I've been seeing? "I spent hours looking for a link without success".
I know what you're thinking, we're all Jane.
Facebook has taken heat over the spread of disinformation on its ad platform, but is reluctant to police speech from legitimate candidates and elected officials. While Facebook works with law enforcement officials in the U.S.to root out interference from Russia, China, Iran and elsewhere, he said the threat is not just interference. That's the only way you can keep your Facebook Messenger account going.
(Net income grew 19% in the third quarter of 2019.) Facebook's operating margin in Q4 was 42% (versus 46% a year prior) but that was up compared with 22%, 27% and 41% in the first three quarters of 2019, respectively.
Sadly, there's little stopping Facebook's surveillance system. That option can be switched OFF, at which point you'll be warned by Facebook that "Your experience may be less personalized and the ads that you see may be less relevant to you". That could include your email address, phone number or other ways to identify your phone or computer, all tied to your activity on other apps and websites.
Confirming that you want to clear your history prompts a banner from Facebook telling you that "your activity has been cleared". "The information you disconnect will no longer be connected to your account". Facebook announced that it let you decouple all the data it gathers from your off-Facebook internet browsing habits from your profile, not that it'll stop collecting that data.
This seems to be the first little step.
Thanks to the new California Consumer Privacy Act tech companies are being forced to tell us all what data they've collected about us. When you clear your history, we complete the separation.
- Geoffrey Fowler is the Washington Post's technology columnist.