Facebook Users Will Soon Be Able to Clear their Data History

It’s one of the creepier aspects of using Facebook. You visit a website and view a product, and next time you’re on Facebook you get an ad for that product. Soon, however, you may be able to keep it from happening.

“On Tuesday, Facebook announced the long-awaited ‘clear history’ feature would roll out in the coming months. It will allow users to delete data that the social network gathers from websites and apps outside of Facebook, and no longer use that data for advertising,” writes Garett Sloane in AdAge.

“Some of Facebook’s most popular marketing technology like the Facebook Pixel and Custom Audiences could be rendered useless if a person erases their tracks. Brands use the pixel, computer code, to tag a user when he or she visits their websites—and then hit them with an ad when they are back on Facebook. If people clear their pixel, they won’t be accessible that way again, unless they visit the website again and rebuild their history,” Sloane continues.

The announcement comes as Facebook faces a potential multi-billion dollar fine from the Federal Trade Commission for the company’s previous privacy practices. As the company pivots to its so-called “privacy-first” mindset, tools like “clear history” will be one important way for users to regain control of their personal data.

Of course, the big question is how will this affect the digital ad industry, which relies on this kind of tracking data to serve up targeted ads.

“We’ve had conversations along the way with businesses, agencies and industry bodies to get a sense of things advertisers will want to know in preparation,” Facebook said in an e-mailed statement.

Clear as mud there, in typical Facebook style.

I don’t know, this all smacks of “feel-good” stop gap measures to convince consumers not to leave the platform. Can they really be trusted with our personal user data? Past history says no; but maybe the billions in fines are making it somewhat less tempting to play fast and loose with our data. Certainly we’ll expect to see a lot of buzz when the “clear history” tool goes live.