Facebook’s ‘Clear History’ Tool

Overview:
Facebook has announced the scheduled rollout of its much anticipated ‘clear history’ feature as part of ongoing developments to data privacy and control on the platform.

Details and Implications:
The feature, which forms the cornerstone of a wider set of tools covering “off-Facebook activity”, provides visibility on the scale of Facebook’s tracking across the wider web, affording some control over what information is garnered from online activity.

Off-Facebook activity is an overview consisting purely of online interactions outside of the Facebook ecosystem, such as visits or purchases made through advertiser apps or websites. Upon navigating to this feature, users will be able to review a summary of off-site data currently collected, how this activity data was received (e.g. through the pixel, SDK or login) and the number of interactions with an advertisers’ app or website, as well as managing apps and websites you log into with Facebook.

Rather than deleting data, ‘Clear History’ will allow users to “disconnect their off-Facebook activity”, meaning data from browsing will be separated from an individual’s unique account information. This will reduce some forms of targeted advertising but will not remove data from Facebook’s servers or wholly prevent its usage. As well as historical data, future off-Facebook activity can be disconnected, which will be implemented 48 hours after a user clears their history. During this time the data can be used for measurement as well as ad functionality.

Any data disconnection by a user will impact all brands, with a single option to ‘clear history’ rather than individually selecting brands or advertisers. However, with limited to no promotion, it is not expected that many users will navigate to the function and clear history.

If a user chooses to disconnect their off-Facebook actvity from their profile, advertisers will be unable to use that specific data for ad targeting potentially reducing the available size of retargeting pools created from web or app actions. Whilst this could limit re-engagment targeting, it will not impact the ability to be served ads in general with Facebook clarifying: “You will still see the same number of ads, they will just be less personalised”.

As this feature is focused towards the disconnection of off-Facebook activity, users may still see ads from advertisers based on Facebook activity, such as engaging with content or viewing video advertising. Furthermore, the usage of first-party data will continue to enable advertises to upload customer lists and target these consumers with paid social advertising.

Facebook has also taken steps to make sure measurement is relatively unaffected, with the creation of a decoupled Measurement. Simply put, the company is not deleting off-platform activity by users – only making it anonymous – which will still wholly be available for reporting.

Summary:

The development was first promised a year ago and will initially be rolled out in Ireland, Spain and South Korea, with a view of a worldwide launch “over the coming months”. Whilst ‘Clear History’ may not be utilised in large numbers – particularly in markets where data privacy conversations have been less prevelant – it is recommended all paid social teams continue to keep a close eye on active and future campaigns, to asscertain potential impacts on audiece reach, CPM and CPC.

Further reading: Facebook | Wired