Mark Zuckerberg’s long promised “Clear History” button is finally launched globally.
Facebook has been determined to give people privacy controls while they’re on the social network, but on Tuesday, it rolled out a long-promised tool that hopes to give people control from the social network.
In a blog post on Data Privacy Day, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the “Off-Facebook Activity” tool would finally be launched globally, a tool that allows people to manage how Facebook tracks them across the internet. Zuckerberg had promised this feature since May 2018, which at the time he called a “Clear History” button.
While it had slow roll-outs around the world, starting last August, it should be available now to the 2.4 billion people who use Facebook every month, Zuckerberg said.
In the blog post, he explained the delay was because “we had to rebuild some of our systems to make this possible.”
“Other businesses send us information about your activity on their sites and we use that information to show you ads that are relevant to you,” Zuckerberg said in the post. “Now you can see a summary of that information and clear it from your account if you want to.”
Facebook’s reach around the internet is widespread, and enables it for tracking in places that have continued to surprise many people over the years. On Monday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation found that the Ring doorbell app for Android devices had been sending information to Facebook through third-party trackers in the app.
That’s the most recent case, but researchers have also found that menstrual tracking apps were sharing sensitive information with Facebook, as were other health apps, which Facebook defended as “industry standard practice.”
Facebook had been criticized by lawmakers for its expansive tracking methods, such as the Facebook Pixel. The tool, which is named because it’s essentially the size of a pixel and not noticeable on a webpage, gives Facebook information on when you visit a website and your activities, like if you bought something from the page. That tool had been on at least 8.4 million websites across the internet, according to a letter sent to the UK Parliament in 2018.
Even when your Facebook account is deactivated, the social network continues to track your web activity, assuming that you will return and looking to show the most relevant ads when you come back.
Along with deleting your history through the tool, the Off-Facebook Activity feature also allows you to turn off future tracking, making sure that your online history isn’t a continuous chore that you have to keep cleaning on Facebook.
But Facebook added a caveat to its new tool, noting that while it prevents tracking your data online, it does not stop advertisers and businesses from targeting ads to you based on other factors, including your contact information. To do that, you’d have to go to Ad Controls, and turn off “Ads based on data from partners.”
The Off-Facebook Activity tool is meant as a compliment to Facebook’s Privacy Checkup feature, which is a central hub for people to manage their privacy on the social network — as in who can tag them in photos and what third-party apps have access to their accounts.