Facebook unveils ‘Clear History’ feature, giving users more control over data

Facebook unveils ‘Clear History’ feature, giving users more control over data
Digital sovereignty

Facebook is rolling out a “Clear History” feature that will allow users to disconnect their accounts from data collected from third-party websites and apps, according to The Verge. The move comes following several delays, more than a year after CEO Mark Zuckerberg first announced plans for the feature at Facebook’s 2018 developer conference, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica revelations.

And for now, the feature only be available to users in Ireland, Spain, and South Korea, in advance of a global launch “over the coming months.”

Many apps and websites track user activity across the web, sending reports back to Facebook that the company uses to target ads. A wide range of sites and apps use digital tools such as Facebook Pixel and Login with Facebook to collect this data and send it to Facebook.

A new function called “Off-Facebook Activity” will allow users to keep track of this data, and the Clear History feature will disconnect it from a user’s account, while stopping short of deleting it entirely. Users will also be given the option to block companies from sending such data to Facebook in the future. Blocking this feature entirely will disable the Login with Facebook option for other websites. 

The company has explained that even though the data won’t be deleted, they opted to call the feature “Clear History” so that users would associate it with tools they already understand. 

According to Stephanie Max, a project manager at the company, the name was chosen so “people were able to mentally connect that with how their browser controls work, where they can clear their history. We clearly state that … the information isn’t connected to your account.”

Max noted that the move could hurt Facebook’s advertising revenue, since the tracking feature is so important to offering the company’s highly targeted advertising. As the first company to provide such a feature, Max says Facebook is hoping to “start a broader conversation around this particular practice.”

The feature was originally set to come online last year. In a blog post Tuesday, the company explained that it had needed new ways of processing and storing data. 

“Our engineering teams redesigned our systems and built a new way for them to process information. We also conducted months of research to get input from people, privacy advocates, policymakers, advertisers and industry groups. We made important changes in response to what we learned.”

Image by Con Karampelas from Pixabay