Facebook’s F8 even could not have arrived at a better time for the company, as the Cambridge Analytica scandal is almost forgotten. Mark Zuckerberg announced a bunch of new features for Facebook and all its other products, while mildly addressing the elephant in the room. The Cambridge Analytica mess may be forgotten, but Facebook users probably — hopefully? — care about privacy more than ever.
Facebook did unveil a rather surprising feature to help you safeguard your privacy. And it sounds almost too good to be true.
Called Clear History the new Facebook will let you instruct Facebook’s servers to forget everything it collected about you from websites and apps. You’ll be able to see what websites and apps that sent Facebook data about you and prevent the company from associating it with your account. From the blog post, emphasis ours:
Today, we’re announcing plans to build Clear History. This feature will enable you to see the websites and apps that send us information when you use them, delete this information from your account, and turn off our ability to store it associated with your account going forward. Apps and websites that use features such as the Like button or Facebook Analytics send us information to make their content and ads better. We also use this information to make your experience on Facebook better.
Facebook will still store that information, but it won’t associate it with your account. What Facebook will do is to remove “remove identifying information so a history of the websites and apps you’ve used won’t be associated with your account.” It won’t stop collecting that data, however. We already know that Facebook is collecting data about users and non-users and that it’s not going to offer anyone the ability to opt out.
Clear History isn’t available just yet, and Facebook says it needs a few months to build it. The company will work with privacy advocates, academics, policymakers, and regulators on the matter.
On the surface, this looks like good news from Facebook. The company does acknowledge that it’s now clear users want better privacy. “The past several weeks have made clear that people want more information about how Facebook works and the controls they have over their information,” the company says.
But given that Facebook disappointed users more than once when it comes to privacy, we’ll just have to wait and see.