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How to stop Facebook from tracking your browsing history

Willing to lose personalized ads? In a heartbeat? Read on. 


Molly McHugh


Posted on Jun 17, 2014   Updated on May 31, 2021, 3:11 am CDT

Last week, Facebook announced that it was going to start tracking our browsing activity. Facebook is claiming that this feature is part of its ad-tailoring program (it also recently introduced a tool that lets you give feedback on ads). Of course, it’s not quite that innocent: Advertisers will pay more for information on what you do outside of Facebook because it will help them target you better inside of Facebook.

Sound good to you? Great, carry on! No? You have some choices, including privacy company Abine’s new DoNotTrackMe tool for Facebook.

“It is crazy for anyone to allow Facebook to collect their browsing history when they’re not even logged into Facebook,” said Abine CEO Rob Shavell, in a press release announcing the technology. “The idea that one company should be trusted to know about our friends and family and then also everything we do online is insane.”

And the scope of Facebook’s tracking ability is greater than you may think. “Our browsing history, which Facebook can only collect because of the many ‘like’ and ‘login’ buttons they have placed on other sites, allows Facebook to connect two critical sets of information about us: ‘Who we are,’ our identity and personal information and social graph; [and] ‘what we do,’ which sites we go to each day, what we do there, and more,” Shavell explained via email. 

“You might have ‘nothing to hide,’ but if you have a Facebook account and surf without technology protecting you from this new default on data collection, you will certainly find out,” he says.  

DoNotTrackMe shows you all companies that are tracking you, not just Facebook. It’s an easy install for major browsers that you can simply install. And it’s free.

The usual ad-avoiding suspects can help here too: Adblock Plus and the Digital Advertising Alliance can also get the job done.

These options all apply to using Facebook via desktop, though. If you’re anything like… most people… you’re using Facebook on your phone. Fortunately, Apple introduced an option recently that allows you limit ad tracking. If you have an iPhone, head to settings and then choose “privacy.” Scroll to the bottom and select “advertising”; flip on “limit ad tracking.” Apple warns you that by doing this, you won’t see fewer ads, but they “may be less relevant because they will not be based on your interest.”

Oh well! Android users can go through a similar process.

If for some reason this doesn’t feel good enough or you want to go a different route, there are individual apps you can download. Ad Control from Ghostery is available for iOS and Android, as is AVG PrivacyFix.

And of course, if you’re intensely private and paranoid, there is the ultimate solution: deleting Facebook. 

Photo via mkhmarketing/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: Jun 17, 2014, 5:36 am CDT