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Facebook’s clear history setting doesn’t actually clear anything

Promising better privacy settings and promising to reform itself in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook has attempted to offer user’s the ability to clear their Facebook history. The ‘clear history’ tool was first promised in May of 2018, just before the company’s F8 developer conference.

At the time Facebook was keen not to upset its advertisers, stating: “It’s important to understand that advertising and protecting people’s information are not at odds…We can do both.” This raised concern with some just how effective the new tool will be or to what extent Facebook users will be aware of it or elect to activate it.

There are also concerns with privacy, in terms of whether the data really disappears. The problem is, while the history disappears from view, it doesn’t actually go anywhere and all of the data remains on the Facebook server. The data has simply become ‘disconnected’ from the Facebook user’s account.

There will be some advantages for users, however, as The Guardian reports. Facebook users will have the ability to track, for the first time, just what Facebook’s tracking apparatus does as it follows its users across the wider web. The new service will provide users with some power to control what Facebook learns about them through its surveillance tracking.

Currently Facebook gathers considerable data through Facebook Pixel, an invisible image included on some webpages, plus Login with Facebook, which makes it easier for people to enter their credentials to access specific websites.

The new Facebook service is being launched in Ireland, Spain and South Korea, a test sites. Later during 2019 there will be a full global roll-out. While ‘clear history’ is the popular term, officially Facebook are calling the tool “the off-Facebook activity setting.”

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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