Facebook finally set to launch Clear History privacy tool

Almost a year after promised disaffected users new privacy features, the social network claims to be finally ready to introduce them.

Facebook's chief financial officer David Wehner revealed that the Clear History tool was in development and could be expected to launch later this year, though no exact date was given.

The tool comes in response to a series of privacy scandals involving the technology giant, most notably surrounding the UK firm Cambridge Analytica .

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The UK data firm gained access to the personal information of around 87 million Facebook users and used it for the purpose of political profiling during President Donald Trump's 2017 election campaign.

Facebook has faced intense scrutiny for the way it handled and safeguarded personal data during this time.

Shape Created with Sketch. How to stop Facebook from revealing everything about you

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Shape Created with Sketch. How to stop Facebook from revealing everything about you

1/9 Lock your profile down

If you haven’t done this already, do it now. In Settings, hit the Privacy tab. From here, you can control who gets to see your future posts and friends list. Choose from Public, Friends, Only Me and Custom in the dropdown menu.

2/9 Limit old posts

Annoyingly, changing this has no effect on who’s able to see your past Facebook posts. Instead, on the Privacy page, you have to click on Limit Past Posts, then select Limit Old Posts and finally hit Confirm on the pop-up.

3/9 Make yourself harder to find

You can stop completely random people from adding you by selecting Friends of Friends from the dropdown menu in the Who can send you friend requests? section of the Privacy page. It’s also worth limiting who can find your Facebook profile with your number and email address. At the bottom of the page is the option to prevent search engines outside of Facebook from linking to your profile.

4/9 Control access to your Timeline

You can limit who gets to post things on your Timeline and who gets to see posts on your Timeline too. In Settings, go to Timeline and Tagging and edit the sections you want to lock down.

5/9 Block people

When you block someone, they won’t be able to see things you post on your Timeline, tag you, invite you to events or groups, start conversations with you or add you as a friend. To do it, go to Settings and Blocking. Annoyingly, you have to block people on Messenger separately. You can also add friends to your Restricted list here, which means they’ll still be friends with you but will only be able to see your public posts and things you share on a mutual friend's Timeline.

6/9 Review tags

One of Facebook’s handiest privacy features is the ability to review posts you’re tagged in before they appear on your Timeline. They’ll still be visible on the News Feed while they’re fresh, but won’t be tied to your profile forever. In Timeline and Tagging, enable Timeline review controls.

7/9 Clean up your apps

You can view a list of all of the apps you’ve connected to your Facebook account by going to Settings and Apps. The list might be longer than you expected it to be. It’s worth tidying this up to ensure things you no longer use lose access to your personal information. If you don’t want to log into websites and apps with your facebook account, scroll down and turn Platform off.

8/9 Change your ad preferences

You can view a list of everything Facebook thinks you’re into and tinker with your ad preferences by going to Settings and Adverts. A lot more information is displayed on the desktop site than the app, so we’d recommend doing this on a computer.

9/9 Download your data

Facebook lets you download all of the data it has on you, including the posts you’ve shared, your messages and photos, ads you’ve clicked on and even the IP addresses that are logged when you log in or out of the site. It’s a hell of a lot of information, which you should download to ensure you never over-share on the social network again.

1/9 Lock your profile down

If you haven’t done this already, do it now. In Settings, hit the Privacy tab. From here, you can control who gets to see your future posts and friends list. Choose from Public, Friends, Only Me and Custom in the dropdown menu.

2/9 Limit old posts

Annoyingly, changing this has no effect on who’s able to see your past Facebook posts. Instead, on the Privacy page, you have to click on Limit Past Posts, then select Limit Old Posts and finally hit Confirm on the pop-up.

3/9 Make yourself harder to find

You can stop completely random people from adding you by selecting Friends of Friends from the dropdown menu in the Who can send you friend requests? section of the Privacy page. It’s also worth limiting who can find your Facebook profile with your number and email address. At the bottom of the page is the option to prevent search engines outside of Facebook from linking to your profile.

4/9 Control access to your Timeline

You can limit who gets to post things on your Timeline and who gets to see posts on your Timeline too. In Settings, go to Timeline and Tagging and edit the sections you want to lock down.

5/9 Block people

When you block someone, they won’t be able to see things you post on your Timeline, tag you, invite you to events or groups, start conversations with you or add you as a friend. To do it, go to Settings and Blocking. Annoyingly, you have to block people on Messenger separately. You can also add friends to your Restricted list here, which means they’ll still be friends with you but will only be able to see your public posts and things you share on a mutual friend's Timeline.

6/9 Review tags

One of Facebook’s handiest privacy features is the ability to review posts you’re tagged in before they appear on your Timeline. They’ll still be visible on the News Feed while they’re fresh, but won’t be tied to your profile forever. In Timeline and Tagging, enable Timeline review controls.

7/9 Clean up your apps

You can view a list of all of the apps you’ve connected to your Facebook account by going to Settings and Apps. The list might be longer than you expected it to be. It’s worth tidying this up to ensure things you no longer use lose access to your personal information. If you don’t want to log into websites and apps with your facebook account, scroll down and turn Platform off.

8/9 Change your ad preferences

You can view a list of everything Facebook thinks you’re into and tinker with your ad preferences by going to Settings and Adverts. A lot more information is displayed on the desktop site than the app, so we’d recommend doing this on a computer.

9/9 Download your data

Facebook lets you download all of the data it has on you, including the posts you’ve shared, your messages and photos, ads you’ve clicked on and even the IP addresses that are logged when you log in or out of the site. It’s a hell of a lot of information, which you should download to ensure you never over-share on the social network again.

Speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference 2019 in San Francisco, Mr Wehner said the new feature will affect Facebook's ability to target users with adverts.

"Broadly, [the new tool is] going to give us some headwinds in terms of being able to target as effectively as before," he said, according to CNBC.

It is not clear how the tool would work or how it might be implemented, though Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave an idea when he first promised the feature at the firm's F8 developer conference last May.

Similar to other online privacy tools from the likes of Google, Clear History would function in the same way to clearing browser data.

"In your web browser, you have a simple way to clear your cookies and history," Mr Zuckerberg wrote in a subsequent Facebook post.

"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."

To begin with, he said, the tool will deal with data collected from websites and apps that use Facebook's ads and analytics tools.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment on when the Clear History tool might be introduced.

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