technology

Facebook to Add ‘Clear History’ Tool to Let Users Scrub Web Data

Updated on
  • Move is response to outcry over mishandling of personal data
  • Zuckerberg warns ‘your Facebook won’t be as good’ for a while

Facebook's clear history tool

Facebook Inc. is going to let users see which websites and apps send the social network data on their activity -- and then give them the option to delete it, with a new "clear history" tool.

The Menlo Park, California-based company is developing the feature in response to an outcry about data collection and privacy on its sites, following revelations that an outside developer improperly handled personal information on tens of millions of users. The crisis has spawned questions from lawmakers and privacy advocates about who owns the data that users share on Facebook, and the company has taken other steps to address the concerns, including pausing some developer tools and auditing apps on its platform.

"The past several weeks have made clear that people want more information about how Facebook works and the controls they have over their information," Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan wrote in a blog post on Tuesday, just as the company kicked off its F8 annual developer conference. "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."

It will take months to build the new Clear History feature, Egan wrote, adding that the company will work with privacy advocates, academics, policy makers and regulators for input on how to remove personal information.

For more on Facebook, check out the Decrypted  podcast:

Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said that he learned, while testifying in front of Congress last month, that he didn’t have clear enough answers to questions about data and Facebook should offer users this kind of option to control their information. But he warned people about using it, because “your Facebook won’t be as good while it relearns your preferences,” he wrote in a post Tuesday.

(Updates with CEO comments in last paragraph.)
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