New “Clear History” Feature Coming Soon for Facebook Users: What Can Businesses Expect from the Update?
Facebook recently announced that the long-awaited Clear History tool – a new privacy feature the company says will let users wipe the information the social network collects about them from 3rd-party applications and websites – is set to be released later this year.
The Clear History tool was announced by Facebook CFO David Wehner at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in February 2019. While the feature was scheduled to roll out in May of the same year, multiple sources confirmed that the company experienced some rocky development.
The primary focus of the tool is to gain back lost user trust and repair the company’s damaged reputation. Over the last several years, Facebook has been heavily criticized for its lack of transparency and failure to respect user privacy through various fallouts including the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal. As a result, the Clear History feature was created as an effort to prove that Facebook does respect its users and their privacy, giving them more control of their own data while limiting access to marketing agencies or businesses in return.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg described the tool as working similarly to how you can clear your browser history. Essentially, users will be able to disconnect their off-Facebook activity from their profile and show users a list of apps and websites they have visited that contain the current Facebook tracking Pixel. Previously, businesses could use this information captured through the Pixel to target Facebook ads to a custom audience of web visitors or actions on their site (add to cart, view content, etc.). Now with a clear history option, this method of re-targeting will no longer be an option for those who use the tool and new strategies will need to be implemented to overcome this hurdle.
How does the Clear History feature work?
In a recent post on his personal Facebook account, Zuckerberg explained what users could expect from the feature in the near future:
“In your web browser, you have a simple way to clear your cookies and history. 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. We’re starting with something a lot of people have asked about recently: the information we see from websites and apps that use Facebook’s ads and analytics tools.”
With the initial delay in the development, it is not clear how the tool will work, or what it will look like when launched. Given the fact that Facebook collects massive amounts of information from their users on and off the site, a Clear History tool could have a substantial impact on the advertising platform’s ability to target ads and generate leads/sales.
The main fear for advertisers is that the tool is going to make it very difficult to target ads as effectively as before the rollout. Facebook already gives users some control over the information they share, the ads they are served, the data that is collected by 3rd party advertisers and even certain ad categories (ads related to marriage, alcohol, relationship status, credit, among others). With users being able to clear their history completely, advertisers are faced with the challenge of trying to serve relevant ads to brand new audiences, or those who have visited your website or page.
Zuckerburg expressed the need for the tool on the platform as a necessity to win back user trust.
“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.”
Is Clearing Facebook History the End for Social Marketing?
Though this update will cause a lot of frustration for marketers, Facebook will still remain a top player for advertising and remarketing. As far as the public is aware, in order for the Clear History feature to have a significant impact on advertisers, a majority of Facebook users would need to clear their Facebook history after every single Facebook session. The chances for everyone clearing their history every single time is slim, but the tool is still something that should be on every advertiser’s radar for what’s to come.
Two steps businesses can take to prepare for the new tool are:
1. Don’t ditch the Pixel. The Facebook Pixel is still a critical tool for your advertising strategy, and until the update comes out, you should continue to build your retargeting lists and compile as much data as possible to identify your target audiences. This could help in creating your new audiences after the update for testing since Facebook could have issues showing relevant ads once the tool is implemented.
2. The Clear History update will not affect your ad targeting capabilities if you have CRM (Customer Relationship Management) data. Facebook will still allow you to upload lists for Custom Audience targeting like a Mailchimp email list. From this list, you will also still be allowed to create Lookalike audiences to find similar customers like in the past
Stay tuned for more updates on the Clear History tool and be sure to follow Epic Notion for all of your digital marketing needs.