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Facebook’s clear history feature is here, but it won’t delete your data

Facebook is adding a new privacy feature, which aims to give the social network’s billion-plus users more control over “off-Facebook activity.”

The version of the long-promised “Clear History” feature gives users a summary of the apps and websites they visit that are sharing activity information with Facebook. Beyond that, it gives the user the opportunity to “clear this information from your account if you want.”

There’s an important distinction to be made here. Facebook isn’t deleting this data. It is simply disassociating it with your account. The company is also giving users the opportunity to disconnect future off-Facebook activity from their account. This suggests you won’t have to be super vigilant about clearing the off-Facebook activity at regular intervals.

Here’s how the company explains it in a Newsroom post: “If you clear your off-Facebook activity, we’ll remove your identifying information from the data that apps and websites choose to send us.

“We won’t know which websites you visited or what you did there, and we won’t use any of the data you disconnect to target ads to you on Facebook, Instagram or Messenger. We expect this could have some impact on our business, but we believe giving people control over their data is more important.”

However, Facebook will still have access to that data, even if your identification is no longer attached to it. It still means it’ll be able to use your data to target you and others with advertisements, albeit in a less finely-turned manner.

The launch is coming in Ireland, Spain and South Korea initially with a wider worldwide launch coming over the next few months. The belated launch of the feature follows a myriad of privacy-related controversies over the last few years. However, it’s not quite the full “clear history” tool promised by founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg in the coming months.

“In your web browser, you have a simple way to clear your cookies and history. The idea is a lot of sites need cookies to work, but you should still be able to flush your history whenever you want,” Zuckerberg wrote in an announcement more than a year ago. “We’re building a version of this for Facebook too. It will be a simple control to clear your browsing history on Facebook — what you’ve clicked on, websites you’ve visited, and so on.”

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