CyberScout

Facebook rolls out 'clear history' tool

Facebook Clear History

Facebook has begun to roll out a tool that allows users to “clear” data collected about their web browsing activities.

The social media giant promised the tool in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but ran into a series of technical difficulties that delayed its release.

“We had to build out the ability to create an index that would let us show this data on a per-person basis, and enable people to see it and clear it, if they wanted to clear it, or even dissociate it going forward,” said Facebook Director of User Management David Baser.

While the tool originally promised by CEO Mark Zuckerberg would allow users to delete data gathered about them by Facebook, the “off-Facebook activity” tool retains information related to a majority of consumer app and web browsing activity, but Facebook users can now choose to disconnect their individual account information from data associated with their online behavior. Facebook maintains that this is for technical, rather than monetary reasons.

“Attempting to delete information from various databases across many different tables and rows would take time and may not work reliably… The quicker, more reliable method would be to disconnect it directly from a person’s account,” wrote Facebook engineers in a company blog post.

While many are disappointed by what they see as a partial solution, some privacy advocates see the deployment of the tool as a sign of progress.

“There are some shortcomings here, but giving consumers the ability to separate that tracking from their real names is a major step in the right direction,” said Justin Brookman of Consumer Reports.

The “off-Facebook activity” tool is currently available in Ireland, South Korea, and Spain and scheduled for wider release in the next several months.