The company said Tuesday that it is finally introducing a tool to help users view and manage the data that apps and websites collect and share with Facebook. However, users will not be able to delete this data completely.
Instead, the user will simply have the ability to disconnect the information from their account. As a result, Facebook will not know which websites the user visited or what the user did there, but the data will still exist on Facebook's servers without identifying information.
Even now, the feature is not quite ready to roll out to all users. To start, the off-Facebook activity feature, as it is called, will be available to users in Ireland, South Korea and Spain, and roll out worldwide over the "coming months."
Facebook said it is a common practice for businesses to share data about people's activity on their websites with ad platforms and other services. But the company said this is "not always well understood."
For example, if a makeup brand wants to show ads to people who are interested in a particular lipstick, it can send information to Facebook saying that someone on a particular device was looking at that product. If that device matches someone's Facebook account, Facebook can show ads about that person's lipstick.
"We expect this may have some impact on our business, but we believe giving people control over their data is more important," the company said in a blog post. However, investors seemed carefree. The Facebook share was little changed after the announcement.
Jasmine Enberg, a social media analyst at the eMarketer research firm, said the move is a move from Facebook to become more transparent, but it is also likely a way to stay ahead of global regulators, which shuts down the company's practice of ad targeting.
The impact on Facebook's advertising business will depend on whether consumers use the tool, she said.
"It takes a proactive step for consumers to access their Facebook settings and turn on the feature," Enberg said. "There's a link between people who say they care about privacy and those who actually do something about it. If not enough people use the tool, it's unlikely to have a significant impact on Facebook's main line."