Almost a year and a half ago, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, on the stage of the company’s annual developer conference, announced that the company would begin to allow users to cut the connection between their web browsing history and their accounts from Facebook. After months of delays, Facebook’s Clear History is now being implemented in Ireland, South Korea, and Spain, with other countries to follow “in the coming months,” the company said. The new tool, which Facebook conceived in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, is designed to give users more control over the privacy of their data at the expense of the advertiser’s targeting capabilities.
When you arrive in your country, the Clear History tool will be part of a new section of the service called “Activity outside of Facebook”. When you open it, you will see the applications and websites that follow your activity and send reports. return to Facebook for advertising guidance purposes. Touching the “Clear History” button will dissociate that information from your Facebook account.
You can also choose to prevent companies from reporting their tracking data about you to Facebook in the future. You will have the option to disconnect all browsing data outside of Facebook or data from specific applications and websites. Facebook says the product is slowly being implemented “to help ensure that it works reliably for everyone.”
The company warned that users would likely see applications and websites in their account activity that they do not recognize. “For example, a website that you did not visit could appear because a friend searched your phone,” the company said. “Or because you share your home computer with your partner and children.”
Originally, the Clear History tool was expected to be released last year. But as my former colleague Kurt Wagner reported in Recode, Facebook had several unexpected delays. Here is part of his interview with David Baser, head of the company’s privacy products:
Baser attributed the delay to two technical challenges, both related to the way Facebook stores user data on its servers.
1. Facebook data is not always stored in the same way it is collected. When Facebook collects web browsing data, for example, that data set includes multiple parts, such as your personally identifiable information, the website you visited and the timestamp of when the data was collected.
Sometimes, that data is separated and stored in different parts of the Facebook system. Baser said finding them all so they can be eliminated, especially once they have separated, has been a challenge.
2. Facebook currently stores navigation data by date and time, not by the user it belongs to. That means there was no easy way within the Facebook system to see all the browsing data linked to an individual user. Facebook had to build a new system that stored navigation data categorized at the user level. “That was not very simple, really, in practice for us to build,” Baser said. However, it is an important element, because in order for users to enter and delete that data, they must be able to find it.
“Since activity outside of Facebook is a new type of tool, there was no template to follow,” Facebook said in a blog post today. “Our engineering teams redesigned our systems and created a new way for them to process information. We also carry out months of research to obtain contributions from individuals, privacy advocates, policy makers, advertisers and industry groups. We made important changes in response to what we learned. ”
Facebook plans to continue building similar tools while trying to reorient the company around privacy, he said in his blog post.