Facebook said Tuesday it will start telling users which websites track them across the web — and offer them the option to delete the personal data from their accounts.
The social media site collects information on Facebook users and non-Facebook users from third party websites that use Facebook's services, like the "Like" plug-in or Facebook "pixels," which are pieces of code that track what people do off of Facebook.
The feature, called "Clear History" — which will roll out in upcoming months — will essentially let users see and clear the information Facebook knows about their browsing history.
"To be clear, when you clear your cookies in your browser, it can make parts of your experience worse. You may have to sign back in to every website, and you may have to reconfigure things. The same will be true here. Your Facebook won't be as good while it relearns your preferences," CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post to his personal account.
"But after going through our systems, this is an example of the kind of control we think you should have," he said. "It's something privacy advocates have been asking for — and we will work with them to make sure we get it right."
The new feature is another effort to give users more control over their data in response to widespread data mishandling by research firm Cambridge Analytica.
The firm was accused in recent months of improperly accessing the personal user data of as many as 87 million Facebook users. The allegations have set off a firestorm of governmental probes and privacy concerns — causing Facebook to publicly address and, in some cases, tweak its privacy policies.
Facebook will still collect and store aggregate data from third party websites, the company said, but it will disassociate the information from user profiles.
"You'll even be able to turn off having this information stored with your account," Zuckerberg said.
Here's the full statement from Facebook's Erin Egan, chief privacy officer:
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.