On the first day of its F8 developer conference at San Jose, California, Facebook announced a lot of new initiatives and proposed several changes to the way it runs its various social media platforms, which include not just Facebook, but also Instagram and WhatsApp.
With the Cambridge Analytica scandal still an ongoing issue for the company, many of those changes relate to data-privacy as well as the way third-party apps and services on Facebook can access user-data.
In his keynote speech at the event, Zuckerberg claimed that users will henceforth not only have complete control over which apps or services can access their data but also promised to take initiatives to make them aware about the tools available at their disposal.
The company had earlier said that it will analyze all apps and services that had access to a large number of user accounts before the changes in its app policies were implemented in 2014, and promised to suspend any account that was found to be in violation of its policies.
As part of its plans to become more upfront about its privacy policies, Facebook also says it will build a ‘Clear History’ button that will work much the same way as clearing cookies on a standard web browser. The button, according to Facebook’s VP and Chief Privacy Officer, Erin Egan, will enable users to not only see which websites and apps share information with the social networking platform, but also delete all of that info and prevent Facebook from ever logging any such data in the future.
“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”
She also says that that the company is working with privacy advocates, academics, policymakers, and regulators to get their input on the subject, including how to remove identifying information. The company, however, says that it might still need to access some private info for security purposes, although, it claims that these will be ‘rare cases’.
While the company says that clearing your history will impact your experience on the site and make it less seamless, for privacy-conscious users who want more granular control over their privacy on the platform, that may well be a trade-off worth making.
The Clear History feature, however, is not rolling out any time soon. Facebook says it will take a few months for it to be introduced, and towards that end, the company says it has “already started a series of round-tables in cities around the world, and heard specific demands for controls like these at a session we held at our headquarters two weeks ago”.