Facebook confirmed it will be rolling out its ‘Clear History’ tool in 2019, a GDPR-style privacy feature that will protect users but inhibit its targeting abilities.
‘Clear History’ was first announced at Facebook’s F8 developer conference in May 2018. At the time, the tool was presented as a promise to address concerns around future privacy issues following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
The tool will allow users to delete information Facebook continuously collects on users via third-party apps and websites. While it will continue to provide third-parties with aggregated analytics, Facebook promises it will be done without storing any information in a way that is associated with a user’s account: “We don’t tell advertisers who you are.”
While great news for privacy-savvy users, the new feature will be a blow to Facebook’s business model. The company built its platform on its capacity to provide advertisers with hyper-targeted audiences. Less targeting will ultimately be translated into lower effectiveness. But according to both Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and CFO David Wehner, the move is necessary because of the “privacy headwinds” the business faces.
But to be clear, the feature will be opt-in and only those users who deliberately choose to erase all of the third-party data associated with their account will actually do so.
Will ‘Clear History’ really impact Facebook’s ability to hyper-target users on behalf of advertisers, or will this be just another PR move? Time will tell. But the truth is that advertisers have grown over-dependent on hyper-targeting, often focusing on the “wrong metrics” as well as short term results rather than brand building.