Jessica Goodfellow
May 15, 2019

Facebook warns ‘Clear history’ tool could trigger targeting changes

The upcoming tool will afford users greater control over their Facebook data as part of the platform's privacy push.

Facebook warns ‘Clear history’ tool could trigger targeting changes

Facebook is bracing advertisers for changes in its ability to target users on the platform due to its upcoming ‘Clear history’ tool, a feature that will allow users to delete data that is associated with their account but has been collected off Facebook.

Co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg first announced the tool during the platform’s F8 developer conference last year, as part of a round of measures aimed at protecting user privacy following the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.

The feature will enable users to see a list of websites and apps that are collecting information on them for ad-targeting purposes (businesses that use tools such as the Facebook pixel, SDK and API), and delete this information from their account.

Yesterday, the platform confirmed it will be rolling out the feature in the “coming months” in a Facebook for Business blog post that lays out how the changes will affect its advertising tools.

It warned that the tool has the potential to inhibit Facebook’s ad-targeting capabilities.

“When someone disconnects their off-Facebook activity, we won't use the data they clear for targeting," the post said. "This means that targeting options powered by Facebook's business tools, like the Facebook Pixel, can't be used to reach someone with ads. This includes Custom Audiences that Facebook generates based on people's visits to advertiser's websites and apps.

“Businesses should keep this in mind when developing strategies for these kinds of campaigns in the second half of the year and beyond.”

However, Facebook's measurement and analytics tools will remain intact, since they do not use personal information.

Facebook wants its ad partners to believe that the tool, which is designed to give users more transparency and control over their data, is ultimately “good for businesses”.

“When people are informed about how their information is used, it improves the way they feel about ads and the businesses they interact with online,” the blog post said. “It's important to understand that advertising and protecting people's information are not at odds—we can do both.”

The move comes as part of Facebook’s broader privacy push, as it looks to claw back trust from users following a year of catastrophic security breaches.

Facebook is not alone in its mission to give users greater control over their data: last week Google revealed new controls in Chrome to allow users to block cookies that track their internet activity, in a move that is also expected to cause some advertising casualties.

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