Facebook now has a new feature, Clear History, in the works which will allow everyone to have access to and control over the data it receives from other websites and apps using its services.
“We’re starting with a feature that addresses feedback we’ve heard consistently from people who use Facebook, privacy advocates and regulators: everyone should have more information and control over the data Facebook receives from other websites and apps that use our services,” Erin Egan, Vice President and Chief Privacy Officer at Facebook, said in a post on Tuesday.
At Facebook’s F8 developer conference that starts on May 1 at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California, US, the social media giant will share some of the steps it plans to take to “better protect people’s privacy”.
“Today, we’re announcing plans to build Clear History,” said Egan.
Commenting on the new feature, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted: “In your web browser, you have a simple way to clear your cookies and history. The idea is a lot of sites need cookies to work, but you should still be able to flush your history whenever you want. We’re building a version of this for Facebook too. It will be a simple control to clear your browsing history on Facebook — what you’ve clicked on, websites you’ve visited, and so on.”
Clear History will enable a user to see the websites and apps that send Facebook information when they are used. Users can now delete this information from their accounts, and turn off Facebook’s ability to store it.
Apps and websites that use features such as the Like button or Facebook Analytics send it information to make their content and ads better. Facebook claims it, in turn, uses this information to make user experience on the platform better.
“If you clear your history or use the new setting, we’ll remove identifying information so a history of the websites and apps you’ve used won’t be associated with your account,” said Egan.
He added: “We’ll still provide apps and websites with aggregated analytics – for example, we can build reports when we’re sent this information so we can tell developer if their apps are more popular with men or women in a certain age group.”
Facebook says it can do this without storing the information in a way that’s associated with a user account.
Clear History will take a few months to be implemented.
“We’ll work with privacy advocates, academics, policymakers and regulators to get their input on our approach, including how we plan to remove identifying information and the rare cases where we need information for security purposes,” said Egan.
Zuckerberg, however, warned that all this might make your Facebook experience not as good as before. “To be clear, when you clear your cookies in your browser, it can make parts of your experience worse. You may have to sign back in to every website, and you may have to reconfigure things. Your Facebook won’t be as good while it relearns your preferences,” he said.
But, Zuckerberg added, it’s something privacy advocates had been asking for, Facebook would “work with them to make sure we get it right”.
Facebook has been facing the heat after Cambridge Analytica, a British consulting company, was accused of harvesting data of up to 50 million Facebook users without permission. CA allegedly used the data to help politicians, including US President Donald Trump, and the Brexit campaign.
Zuckerberg appeared before the US Congress earlier this month to testify on the social network’s handling of customer data.
“One thing I learned from my experience testifying in Congress is that I didn’t have clear enough answers to some of the questions about data. We’re working to make sure these controls are clear, and we will have more to come soon,” he said in his latest post.