Over a year ago, Mark Zuckerberg promised a privacy feature on Facebook called Clear History, which would reduce monitoring of your activity on other sites. After a long wait, this function is available to users in South Korea, Spain and Ireland; it will reach more countries “in the coming months”. However, this does not erase the data that other sites have collected about you.
If you are logged into Facebook and visit a website with the Like button, your browsing activity can be passed on to the social network. The same is true if the page uses Facebook Pixel tracking or other business tools.
The idea is to personalize ads: for example, you visit an online store and look for models of sneakers; the site forwards this to Facebook, which will start showing more tennis ads in the news feed, Instagram and Messenger.
This information is now gathered in a section called Activity outside Facebook, within your account settings. You will be able to see the information collected by other companies and passed on to the social network, either when using apps or visiting websites.
The feature is only available in South Korea, Spain and Ireland for now, but it will reach more countries soon. “We will expand the resource to the whole world in the coming months to ensure that it works reliably for everyone,” says Facebook in a statement.
Clear History does not erase data collected outside of Facebook
There is an option “Clear History” (delete history), the one that has been prepared for over a year. However, contrary to what the name indicates, that not erases the data that other sites have collected about you: the button just unlocks that data from your Facebook profile.
“If you delete your online history, we will remove your identifying information from the data that applications and websites choose to send us,” explains Facebook. “We will not know what website you were on or what your actions on the internet were and we will not use any of the data you unlink to target ads to you.”
The user can unlink your activity on specific sites or on all sites. This does not disable data collection about your activity outside of Facebook, it just prevents it from being linked to your profile.
If you want to prevent data collection on other sites, you will have to resort to solutions outside of Facebook. For example, you can access certain pages anonymously; use privacy extensions like Disconnect or Ghostery; or use browsers that block crawlers like Firefox or the new Microsoft Edge.
Who to use Clear History will see the same number of ads on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger; however, they will be less personalized. “We know that there will be an impact on our business, but we believe that giving people control over their data is more important,” says the social network.
Clear History was presented in 2018 at the F8 conference as a privacy initiative after the Cambridge Analytica scandal. David Baser, who heads the Facebook privacy team, says the feature took time because it was necessary to change the way user data is stored.
Baser explained earlier that the social network stored browsing data by date and time, not by the corresponding user, so there was no easy way to view the information collected about a particular person.
With information: Facebook.