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Clear history

Facebook launches new privacy tool to limit data-scraping from third-party websites and apps

The tool was first announced by CEO Mark Zuckerberg last year.

FACEBOOK HAS ANNOUNCED it will launch a new privacy tool that will allow users to limit how the social network gathers their data from third-party websites and apps.

The company said that it is adding a section to its site where users can see the activity that Facebook tracks outside its service via its “like” buttons and other means.

Such data is among the information that Facebook uses to target ads to its users. 

Formerly known as “clear history”, the new tool – announced more than a year ago – will be called “off-Facebook activity” and allow users to turn off tracking from third-party websites.

It will also let users delete their browsing history from Facebook and prevent the company from keeping track of their future clicks, taps and website visits in the future.

However, while users will be able to disconnect their activity from specific websites or apps if they activate the feature, tracking will continue in the same way if they do not.

The feature will launch in South Korea, Ireland and Spain next Tuesday, consistent with Facebook’s tendency to launch such features in smaller markets first.

The social media giant did not provide a timeline for when it might expand the tool to bigger markets, only saying that this would happen in “coming months”.

The new tool is not expected to change the number of ads users see on the website, nor will it change how their actions on Facebook are used to show them ads.

Facebook will also continue to gather data on users’ off-Facebook activities, with the company saying that while businesses won’t know which individuals clicked on an ad, companies will still be informed that someone did so.

Jasmine Enberg, social media analyst at research firm eMarketer, told AP that the tool is part of Facebook’s efforts to be clearer to its users on how it tracks them and is likely “an effort to stay one step ahead of regulators, in the US and abroad”.

Its launch comes as Facebook faces increasing scrutiny over its privacy practices, including a $5 billion (€4.5 billion) fine from the US Federal Trade Commission for mishandling user data.

With reporting from Associated Press.

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