Sometime in mid-2018, Mark Zuckerberg announced at Facebook’s annual developer conference that the tech giants would be introducing a privacy tool soon, one that would let users clear their browsing histories on Facebook. It’s well-known today that Facebook tracks your browsing history—even when you’re not on Facebook—and the data collected is used for personalised ad-targeting.
And now, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal that eventually culminated in Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifying in front of U.S. Congress, Facebook is officially rolling out a feature that lets users “see and control the data that apps and websites share with Facebook”. The feature is available in Ireland, South Korea, and Spain, with other countries to follow suit in time.
Basically, you’ll be able to view a list of the 3rd party websites and apps that share your browsing data with Facebook, and there’s now the option to clear that history. Users can also turn off the option for their browsing histories to be used by Facebook for personalised ads in the future.
In a blogpost, Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer, Erin Egan, and Director of Product Management, David Baser, explained that this could have an impact on Facebook’s business as a whole, but the new feature is part of the renewed emphasis that Facebook is placing on privacy.
“We expect this could have some impact on our business, but we believe giving people control over their data is more important.”
Facebook still stores your data, however
But an important point to note is that Facebook will reportedly still store your data, even if you turn off the option for Facebook to use your browsing data for ads. If you go through this Facebook help page, and head down to the bottom of the page, you’ll find this message under a nondescript drop-down menu:
“Your future off-Facebook activity will be disconnected within 48 hours from when it’s received. During this time it may be used for measurement purposes and to make improvements to our ads systems.”
This means that irregardless, Facebook is still collect your browsing data for 48 hours, even if you’ve turned the option off. It’s also stated in an engineering blog post that you can view here.
Facebook’s Director of Policy Communications explained that even after this 48-hour window, Facebook isn’t going to delete your data. Instead, the company will merely remove the link between the data and users’ personal profiles. And that’s how Facebook is still maintaining the measurements that advertisers and clients need:
“We will still be able to provide accurate measurement to help businesses understand the impact of their Facebook investment, while honouring people’s choice to exercise control over their off-Facebook activity.”