Preparing for when Facebook users ‘clear history’


Assuming you aren’t the type to reside under a rock, you would be familiar with Facebook’s problematic privacy issues. Last week, after months of growing criticism, the company finally announced a project developed to give users the power to both see and clear their off-Facebook data.

That’s the stuff that belongs to apps like Airbnb, Angry Birds or that other app we all downloaded 6 years ago which made it sound like you were shaving your friends’ head. It’s an all-or-nothing update, so users either clear all the data or none of it. Handy when you want to stop giving your data to iShave; not so handy if you’re painstakingly tracking calories on MyFitnessPal, or you’re a brand looking to retarget wayward customers, because once that data has been erased, so will the chance of quick re-engagement.

The new feature is designed to give the data-sensitive population the opportunity to have more control over what Facebook shares with other sites. It’s a good step for empowering consumers, that’s for sure – similar to the ability to clear cookies on a web browser. With 36% of Aussies using an ad-blocker, we should expect to see a similar uptake, though this will be a slow build, because let’s face it – having a unique log in for the hundreds of apps and websites we use on a weekly basis is a pain.

“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”, Zuckerberg wrote over a year ago. “Your Facebook won’t be as good while it relearns your preferences. But 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.”

Facebook has said the change will hit Aussie shores in the next few months and that they’ll be providing businesses and agencies with the tools to keep across how the changes affect their day to day Facebook marketing activity.

What are the implications of this new feature? Well, if users choose to exercise their new rights, it may require brands to resort to a higher volume of less specific messaging and targeting, using data owned by Facebook to reach their intended audience and meet their objectives.

But also – will this change put much more power in the hands of Google, being Australia’s top email service provider? We’ll keep an eye on it and keep you posted, of course.

In the meantime, it may be a good time to jump on Facebook’s newer features that feed into Instagram like IGTV and longer form video, as trends indicate brands are being promoted organically through these channels.