In a post-Cambridge Analytica world, Facebook continuously strives to showcase their dedication and commitment to giving users more control and transparency over data that is shared with the social media platform. Shortly before the F8 Conference in Spring 2018, Facebook announced a new ‘Clear History’ feature that would give users control of their data, allowing them to disconnect the information third-party websites and apps share with Facebook.
Fast forward to August 2019, Facebook finally rolled out the ‘Clear History’ feature, now known as the ‘Off-Facebook Activity Tool’. This tool will show users a summary of the apps and websites that have shared their user data with Facebook, and gives users the opportunity to control what information, if any, is shared with these websites. According to Facebook, they “won’t know which websites you visited or what you did there, and won’t use any of the data you disconnect to target ads to you on Facebook, Instagram or Messenger.” There is one caveat – even though Facebook will allow users to decide what they share, it will not prevent Facebook from collecting or storing the information. Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan describes the functionality and use case best:
“Imagine a clothing website wants to show ads to people who are interested in a new style of shoes. They can send Facebook information saying someone on a particular device looked at those shoes. If that device information matches someone’s Facebook account, we can show ads about those shoes to that person.”
With the new tool, users will have three options to clear or restrict specific information from their accounts:
- Summary view of the data apps and websites have chosen to send to Facebook
- Disconnect this information from your account
- Disconnect future off-Facebook activity from your account. This will be available for all of a user’s off-Facebook activity or just specific websites/apps.
This update will give users more visibility into what is happening with their data but will likely impact the way this data is aggregated. As advertisers, it’s important for us to understand how to prepare for the impact, as well as keep these updates top of mind as we head into the second half of the year.
- As mentioned, this will impact the data available to advertisers. If a user decides to disconnect their off-Facebook activity, the data from those sites won’t be used for targeting. Facebook’s pixel or custom audiences built from website visitors or custom lists won’t be available to reach users with ads.
- Facebook’s measurement and reporting tools will continue to provide the same level of data, as it was built to protect a user’s identity. They do not anticipate any changes will come for the data analytics tools.
- Targeting basics are still available, and they really work! While some targeting parameters were removed in October 2018, demographic, behavior and interest targeting is still an easy way to make sure your ads are being seen by people that fit in your target audience.
- Continue to connect, not only in person but on Facebook too! Targeting those connected to your Facebook Page will keep your Page Fans engaged with your content.
Facebook says they will continue to find ways to improve the level of transparency for users and their profiles. Change is hard, especially when it comes to new features or policies and ensuring that you are ready for the downstream effects of how these changes will impact your advertising ability.
Note: Facebook has made this tool available to people in Ireland, South Korea, and Spain and will continue to roll out to everyone throughout the end of the year.