Facebook recently announced a new tool for controlling user data off the platform that advertisers may not like. The Clear History function was first considered last year and will let the user turn off or delete their data from the platform as long as it comes from other apps and websites that they visit.
The tool will control data from the API, Facebook pixel, and SDK. It will be rolled out in the months to come and appears to be designed to warn advertisers of its inevitability. When someone turns off their activity off Facebook, advertisers will not be able to use that data for targeting. Consequently, targeting options like popular Custom Audiences will be unavailable for the user.
This move will disrupt advertisers, but it is in line with Facebook’s move towards privacy. Earlier this year, the company announced plans for private communications between Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
If users use the new tool to clear their activity outside of the social media network, it could dent user targeting as has come to be known. Targeting typically relies on data collected about the behavior of a user online. The news by Facebook follows a move by Google’s Chrome and Apple’s Safari towards eliminating cookie tracking. The three platforms already command massive traffic as it is so the three moves, taken together, may point to a future decrease in the number of non-consented ad tracking.
There have been efforts by major platforms to allow users more control over their information as pop-ups presenting more private alternatives begin to show up. Brave, for example, is a web browser that will block ads and tracking and offer rewards for people who view ads. The audience is still small, but it has hit 5.5 million and is growing as people take their privacy more seriously.
Facebook has closed down some of its tools in the past, especially those including third-party data. Last year, it shuttered its Partner Categories program. This growing love for privacy, however, has not hurt the company’s bottom line. Its revenue for the first quarter of 2019 was higher than last year’s by 26%.
The company is still working to recover from the Cambridge Analytica scandal where user data was used without consent, putting Facebook under scrutiny by the FTC for compliance with user data protection and GDPR. As regulators focus on privacy, Facebook is likely to tighten its data privacy measures in the days to come.