The OFA Shock


Do you also feel that something is wrong with the way Facebook, Google and the other giants treat us as citizens and users? After years of research, Harvard professor Shoshana Zuboff has given this feeling a name: surveillance capitalism. Facebook has now lifted the veil covering their business model, which is based on ruthless secret data collection, with a function that has now been released worldwide.

It is called “Off-Facebook Activity” (OFA) and shows which mountains of data the company is amassing. If you call up the function, you can see information that is transmitted to Facebook by other apps and websites. The company has bugged the Internet with the so-called “Facebook Business Tools”. Many apps and large websites use built-in Like buttons, Facebook pixels or software development kits with which they deliver their visits to Facebook.

Facebook looks over our shoulders while we are surfing and knows which pages we visit, which apps we open, which goods we add to the shopping cart and which we finally buy.

OFA should now offer a “new form of transparency and control”, Facebook says. Like almost all privacy functions, OFA is deeply hidden in the Facebook settings. To find them, users have to search for the “Your Facebook information” tab, go to “Activities outside Facebook” and finally click “Manage your activities outside Facebook”. The sight should surprise most, and you’ll find a list of hundreds of entries, including services you never knew you had ever used.

There is also a “Manage future activities” switch that can be used to interrupt the connection between Facebook and external data providers. It can be assumed that it only scratches the surface and that extensive tracking and personalized advertising remain normal.

Gerhard Schimpf, the recipient of the ACM Presidential Award 2016, has a degree in Physics from the University of Karlsruhe. As a former IBM development manager and self-employed consultant for international companies, he has been active in ACM for over four decades. He was a leading supporter of ACM Europe, serving on the first ACM Europe Council in 2009. He was also instrumental in coordinating ACM’s spot as one of the founding organizations of the Heidelberg Laureates Forum. Gerhard Schimpf is a member of the German Chapter of the ACM (Chair 2008 – 2011) and a member of the Gesellschaft für Informatik. --oo-- Gerhard Schimpf, der 2016 mit dem ACM Presidential Award geehrt wurde, hat an der TH Karlsruhe Physik studiert. Als ehemaliger Manager bei IBM im Bereich Entwicklung und Forschung und als freiberuflicher Berater international tätiger Unternehmen ist er seit 40 Jahren in der ACM aktiv. Er war Gründungsmitglied des ACM Europe Councils und gehört zum Founders Club für das Heidelberg Laureate Forum, einem jährlichen Treffen von Preisträgern der Informatik und Mathematik mit Studenten. Gerhard Schimpf ist Mitglied des German Chapter of the ACM (Chairperson 2008 – 2011) und der Gesellschaft für Informatik.

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