Facing a challenge – understanding Facebook’s opt-out instructions

By EDRi · February 11, 2015

Following Facebook’s new changes in its terms of service, the company has provided a public relations pitch about “your information” and how Facebook “respects the choices that you make” about the advertising that you see. In particular, it says

“That’s why Facebook respects the choices you make about the ads you see, across every device. You can opt out of seeing ads on Facebook based on the apps and sites you use through the Digital Advertising Alliance.”

A reasonable reading of those two sentences would give the impression that you can opt out of data collection across every device by following the link to the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA). Except, the first sentence refers to the options (not linked to on the page) available inside Facebook’s service to opt out of advertising based on profiling (but not data collection for that purpose). The second sentence refers to something entirely different, a centralised opt-out process for a range of companies. Opting out through the DAA does not opt the user out across every device it operates, despite the fact that many DAA members take pride in their ability to follow users across devices.

If you manage to navigate from the Facebook page about the privacy policy update, to the page about the DAA, to the Online Ad Choices Page, to the correct country, to the Your Ad Choices page and work out how to opt out of all of the individual companies then… then you will have had a cookie placed on your computer opting you out of advertising based on profiling.

The only way you can opt out across several devices is to repeat the exercise on each of your devices. And if you delete your cookies regularly, like many privacy-conscious users do, you need to go through the whole opt-out process again.

It is almost as if Facebook and the DAA do not see your data as your data. It is almost as if the vast amount of public relations fluff was intended to confuse and obfuscate rather than to inform and to provide meaningful choice. Almost.

In order to provide individuals with some real choice and meaningful information, EDRi member Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) produced the “Privacy Badger” browser add-on that really does limit online tracking in a transparent and user-friendly way. They are developing more projects to expand this protection. Furthermore, the excellent project “Terms of Service; Didn’t Read” provides a browser add-on that provides useful information of websites you visit based on their privacy-policies.

Privacy badger

Terms of Service; Didn’t Read


Facebook’s update

Facebook signs users up to privacy policy that allows it to track you everywhere on the internet (04.02.2015)

EDRi: How to deal with Facebook’s new tracking policies (06.20.2015)

(Contribution by Joe McNamee, EDRi)