Facebook Sees Your Browsing History, But Will Soon Let You Delete It

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Facebook’s new Clear History tool, which the company first announced about a year and a half ago, will allow users to sever the connection between their browser and app history — what the company calls “Off-Facebook Activity” — and their Facebook accounts.

Off-Facebook Activity works like this. Say you look at a clothing site and see a cool shirt. The clothing brand, obviously wanting you to buy that shirt, may share data about your interests and browsing history with Facebook. Facebook may then show you ads for that shirt later on to try and get you to buy it. But that may be changing.

  • When select users go to the Settings section of their Facebook app and tap on Off-Facebook Activity, they’ll see a new option to Clear History.
  • If they do, Facebook won’t know anything about their earlier browsing.
  • Users can also choose to block specific companies from sending tracking data to Facebook in the future.

“We won’t know which websites you visited or what you did there, and we won’t use any of the data you disconnect to target ads to you on Facebook, Instagram or Messenger,” Facebook wrote in a blog post explaining the feature.

Of course, that’s very likely to have a negative impact on Facebook’s advertising business. The social media giant even acknowledges this, but adds that it believes “giving people control over their data is more important.”

As you might expect, Facebook first devised the Clear History tool in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. And it’s likely one way for the social media giant to stay ahead of regulators in the U.S. and elsewhere across the globe.

The tool is just one part of a larger push toward more privacy-respecting platforms and policies. That push also includes new end-to-end encryption being baked into a new unified messaging platform.

Before you rush off to clear your browsing history, do note that the feature is probably not available in your country quite yet.

Starting today (and following a delay due to technical challenges), Facebook has made the tool available in Ireland, South Korea and Spain. The firm says it’ll begin launching it in other countries “in coming months.”


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