Facebook is holding its F8 developer conference today. Given that it’s been going through a lot of trouble related to third-party developers it brought a surprise announcement to take your mind off of privacy concerns. It will soon give you control over the information that apps and websites are seeing about you, and let you opt out.
Just before taking the stage at F8, Mark Zuckerberg posted a statement to his personal page introducing the feature called Clear History. It reads in part:
Today at our F8 conference I’m going to discuss a new privacy control we’re building called “Clear History”.
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. 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.
Once we roll out this update, you’ll be able to see information about the apps and websites you’ve interacted with, and you’ll be able to clear this information from your account. You’ll even be able to turn off having this information stored with your account.
There’s not a lot of detail about how this feature will work, how your data will still be used while not being “associated” with your account, or when it will roll out. We expect to hear more at the conference over the course of the afternoon.
Erin Egan, Facebook’s VP and Chief Privacy Officer, shared a longer post that you can read in full below:
The past several weeks have made clear that people want more information about how Facebook works and the controls they have over their information. And today at F8 we’re sharing some of the first steps we’re taking to better protect people’s privacy.
We’re starting with a feature that addresses feedback we’ve heard consistently from people who use Facebook, privacy advocates and regulators: everyone should have more information and control over the data Facebook receives from other websites and apps that use our services.
Today, we’re announcing plans to build Clear History. This feature will enable you to see the websites and apps that send us information when you use them, delete this information from your account, and turn off our ability to store it associated with your account going forward. Apps and websites that use features such as the Like button or Facebook Analytics send us information to make their content and ads better. We also use this information to make your experience on Facebook better.
If you clear your history or use the new setting, we’ll remove identifying information so a history of the websites and apps you’ve used won’t be associated with your account. We’ll still provide apps and websites with aggregated analytics – for example, we can build reports when we’re sent this information so we can tell developer if their apps are more popular with men or women in a certain age group. We can do this without storing the information in a way that’s associated with your account, and as always, we don’t tell advertisers who you are.
It will take a few months to build Clear History. We’ll work with privacy advocates, academics, policymakers and regulators to get their input on our approach, including how we plan to remove identifying information and the rare cases where we need information for security purposes. We’ve already started a series of roundtables in cities around the world, and heard specific demands for controls like these at a session we held at our headquarters two weeks ago. We’re looking forward to doing more.