Facebook Announces A Tool To Clear Your History And Put You In Charge Of Privacy


Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook's privacy policies have been put under a microscope, more so than they have always been. Mark Zuckerberg was called to testify before Congress, and users who have grown tired of Facebook's repeated mishaps engaged in a '#deleteFacebook' campaign on social media. In the wake of all this, Facebook has been making changes to its policies, and is also working on a new tool that lets users erase their histories.

"Today, we’re announcing plans to build Clear History. This feature will enable you to see the websites and apps that send us information when you use them, delete this information from your account, and turn off our ability to store it associated with your account going forward," Facebook said.

The decision to build a Clear History tool was born out of feedback that Facebook received from its users, privacy advocates, and regulators alike. Facebook has been under pressure to handle its users' data with more care, or else face government regulation, which Zuckerberg isn't necessarily opposed to, according to remarks he made to Congress. However, over-regulation is always a possibility when the government gets involved in these sort of things, and it would be in Facebook's best interest to avoid that.

While Facebook is planning to let users delete their histories, the company offers up a 'caveat emptor' of sorts, noting that the Facebook experience is ultimately better when apps and websites can access a user's data.

"Apps and websites that use features such as the Like button or Facebook Analytics send us information to make their content and ads better. We also use this information to make your experience on Facebook better," Facebook says.

Take from that what you will. If you do decide to the use the tool (once it's made available), it will remove your identifying information so that a history of the sites and apps you've used won't be associated with your account. Those sites and apps will still receive aggregated analytics from Facebook, including reports that let developers know if their apps are more popular with men or women, but Facebook says it will be able to do that without storing information in a way that is associated with your account.

Facebook is currently building the Clear History tool with input from privacy advocates, academics, policymakers, and regulators. It should be available in a few months.