This Facebook privacy feature was announced in May during their annual F8 conference. It’s now been seven months – what’s going on? This privacy feature was announced at the height of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal. The feature called Clear History was supposed to give users the option of clearing the browsing history Facebook collected from the sites and apps the users visited off of the giant social network. Facebook would then not link this data to their profiles. This data collected from the browsing habits of its users was fundamental to Facebook as it uses it for ad targetting. This announcement was Facebook’s way of assuring its users it was taking their privacy seriously – but is it?
Here’s what’s going on
At the time of the announcement, Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan said that it would take them “a few months” to build but as it turns out, it was going to take Facebook longer than they thought. The issue is with how Facebook stores this data on their servers. The head of Facebook’s newly created privacy product team(after the May company-wide restructuring), David Baser why it was taking them longer than they had estimated to materialize this feature citing technical challenges:
- The way Facebook collects data is not the same way it is stored. Facebook separates the pieces of data collected including personal identifying information, the timestamp of when the data was collected and the websites you visited. After separation, this data is stored in different parts of Facebook’s system making it a challenge finding them for clearance.
- Facebook also stores the browsing data it collects by date and time and not by which user it belongs to hence it’s difficult to link browsing data to one user.
These claims are hard to believe even if you wanted to since it means that Facebook can easily find your browsing history when it needs to serve you an ad but not when you want to delete it
Facebook eventually had to build a new system from the ground up to store the data at the user level so that they find it easy to clear their history.
Here’s why it’s going to confuse a lot of its users if it ever goes live
First of all its aptly named Clear History and not Delete History – the reason is that once a user clears their history, their browsing data is de-linked from their Facebook account. This means that the browsing data will still be stored by Facebook and not associated with a specific user.
Why Facebook can’t just delete it altogether
The social giant would but it chooses not to – Facebook’s whole business model is based on the vast amounts of data it collects and deleting it would hurt its revenue stream since their real mission is to make money.
When should you expect this feature?
According to David Baser, the feature will be delivered for product testing next year between late March and late June.
Here’s the silver lining
If this feature ever goes live, this means that you won’t be able to see those eerie products or service ads on Facebook that show up after you’ve visited other websites. The catch is that Facebook will still be watching you.