The Facebook “Clear History” button is finally here. It will allow you to find out, and delete, all of the data the social media network collects from your Internet browsing. The launch is in responseto the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, after which it became apparent that tech companies had to allow more transparency on the way they utilise peoples’ data.
The tool, which is now being called “Off-Facebook Activity”, will allow users across the globe to control how third-party websites and apps transmit data to the platform. This means that you can now see what news sites, payment apps, retailers and other online services have been sharing info about you with Facebook for ad targeting purposes.
Furthermore, it will erase the user data that the platform
has accumulated through the aforementioned third parties. Considering there are innumerable possibilities for apps and websites to share your activity, this is quite a major update in digital privacy.
Why Has This Feature Been Launched?
Facebook and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, have come under considerable scrutiny in recent times for collecting sensitive user information from highly personal apps. The “Off-Facebook Activity” tool won’t necessarily end that practice, but it should give someone who takes the time to use it a heightened understanding of how the network utilises their data.
“Off-Facebook Activity marks a new level of transparency and control,” Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post. “We’ve been working on this for a while because we had to rebuild some of our systems to make this possible.” In 2019, Zuckerberg said that initiating such a feature would possibly harm Facebook’s extremely profitable ad business, since it could limit how Facebook users are targeted.
Facebook first announced the “Off-Facebook Activity” feature at a developer conference in 2018 in response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Last year, the company developed a beta version of the tool for users in Ireland, South Korea and Spain. The Cambridge Analytica data scandal erupted in 2018 when it was reported that Cambridge Analytica had been collecting the personal information of millions of Facebook profiles without the user’s consent and utilised if for political advertising.
It was described as a defining moment in the publics’ comprehension of personal data and lead to a massive drop in Facebook’s stock price as well as calls for stricter regulation of tech companies’ use of personal information.
Facebook had originally called the tool “Clear History”, but the company was concerned that users would mistakenly think that they could remove content they had posted to their pages. A judge in Texas temporarily prohibited Facebook from launching the controls in the U.S. over concerns that the feature would allow an alleged sex trafficker to delete their history and, therefore, evidence.
How To Use The Feature Facebook Clear History Feature
You can find the tool in the Facebook website or app by navigating to the settings menu. From there, you go down to the section entitled “Your Facebook Information”. You then select “Off-Facebook Activity”, which then takes you to a page where you can view the websites and apps that have been sharing your information. You can then set limits on how this data sharing occurs and delete the associated histories.
There’s a “Clear History” button at the top of the page that will delete all the “Off-Facebook Activity” data presented, and you can click on each website or app in the list to see how much data they’ve shared and stop them from doing so in the future.
If you choose to delete all the shared data and stop those third parties from providing Facebook with information tethered to your account, you’ll still see ads on the network, but they’ll be less relevant to your interests and, importantly, less intrusive. Facebook has likened this to clearing histories and cookies from an internet browser. Note, however, that Facebook can still target ads to you by utilising other data, like contact information, though you can restrict this to a certain extent with the “Ads based on data from partners” setting in Ad Controls.
The “Off-Facebook Activity” feature will still technically allow Facebook to collect data from third parties. However, if you set your controls to the most stringent setting, that information will no longer be associated with your profile. They can only delete the information that Facebook stores – you will have to go directly to those third parties if you want them to erase the data they originally collected on you.