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Meta uses your Facebook data to train its AI. Here’s how to opt out (sort of)

Facebook app

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Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made billions by collecting, sharing, and using your personal data. In turn, Meta uses your data to help create its large language model (LLM) Llama 2

Yes, your data is the ore from which the metal of Facebook’s forthcoming AI chatbot will be forged. Not thrilled about that? You can do some things to keep at least some of your data from fueling Facebook’s AI engine.

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First, understand that Meta will use publicly available information “as well as information from its products and services” — Facebook, Threads, and Instagram — to train its generative AI services. The only way to completely avoid that is to delete your Facebook and associated accounts — 90 days ago. That’s how long Meta retains your data. 

Note, however, that even if you’ve never used Facebook, Meta almost certainly knows something about you. That’s because many other websites use Meta Pixel, Social Plugins, or other Meta advertising software. Those sources alone are enough to collect some information about you. 

To tweak how Meta uses your data, two options now work.

First, for some time now, you could use Off-Facebook Activity (OFA) tools to see much, but not all, of what Facebook and friends know about you. 

Facebook Activity

Even when you’re not on Facebook, Meta is tracking you. 

Screenshot by Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNET

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Here, you’ll find — besides your name and that you liked Uncle Reggie’s funny cat picture yesterday — that Facebook knows when you’ve been…

  • Opening an app
  • Logging into an app with Facebook
  • Viewing content
  • Searching for an item
  • Adding an item to a shopping cart
  • Making a purchase
  • Making a donation
  • Visiting a website

Using the OFA tools, though, you can manage your Off-Facebook Activity.

First, go to the Off-Facebook Activity page. To view this page, you may need to enter your Facebook password. This is normal. Here, you’ll find all the sites and services Facebook shares data with and vice-versa. 

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To see exactly what each one is up to in general terms, click on the ones you’re concerned about. Since you probably have hundreds of them, I doubt you’ll want to go through all of them. 

Turn off future activity: From the Manage Your Off-Facebook Activity pages, toward the bottom of the display, you can “Turn off future activity.” That doesn’t stop either Facebook or the company from getting your data; it just breaks, in theory, the connection between your Facebook identity and your data.

Clear History: You can also just “Clear History.”  You’ll find this option on the Manage Your Off-Facebook Activity page. It will disconnect your account from all the sites and services currently following you. Again, this doesn’t “clear” anything. It just snaps the link between your account and Facebook’s partners. If you do this, you may also be logged out of any site you use a Facebook login to connect with. However, Facebook and partners will continue to receive your activity when you visit their sites and services. 

Breaking the AI data cord: This will also clear out some of the data Meta uses for its AI programs. To do more specifically to improve your AI privacy, you must head to the new Generative AI Data Subject Rights page.

Here, you can “submit requests related to your information being used for generative AI model training.” Note Meta doesn’t promise  it’ll do anything, but you can request the following:

  •  I want to access, download, or correct any personal information from third parties used for generative AI

This will generate an email to Meta customer support. In time, Meta will get back to you. What answer you get will depend on where you live. Today, EU citizens are far more likely to be able to get their information and modify it than, say, someone in Canada, the US, or Mexico. That’s because the EU has far stricter privacy laws than anywhere else in the world. 

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The other request is much simpler:

With this option, all your OFA data should be deleted. 

Even after all this, Meta will still have access to all the data you’ve entered into Facebook, Instagram and Threads. But at least you’ll have kept some of your personal data out of Meta’s AI. That’s better than nothing. 

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