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Facebook F8: Zuckerberg unveils plans for a “clear history” privacy tool

Mark Zuckerberg has unveiled plans for a new tool to give users control of the data Facebook gathers about them from other websites and apps.

Dubbed “Clear History”,  the feature is designed to provide users with information generated by companies that use Facebook’s ads and analytics tools. It will let users clear the information and prevent Facebook from continuing to link such data to their accounts.

The social network’s CEO said the long-term aim is to give people as much control over their Facebook browsing history as web browsers do. But a spokesperson told Recode that while the data would no longer be linked to a profile, it may still be analysed as part of an anonymised, aggregated set.

Zuckerberg revealed plans for the product ahead of the company’s annual developer conference, F8, last night. Investors, analysts and developers had been looking to the embattled CEO to restore confidence in the company’s suite of platforms following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Announcing the tool, Zuckerberg said in a post: “After going through our systems, this is an example of the kind of control we think you should have. It’s something privacy advocates have been asking for – and we will work with them to make sure we get it right.”

CCS Insight’s research chief Geoff Blaber said Zuckerberg’s F8 keynote presented a “more tangible focus on action” than during his testimonies in Washington last month. “The introduction of ‘Clear History’ as a means to manage websites and apps that access data is a logical move but it’s remarkable that it’s taken Facebook this long to provide users control over their own data,” Blaber added.

Zuckerberg did not specify when the tool would be rolled out, but Erin Egan – the company’s chief privacy officer – said it would take a few months to build: “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.”