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Facebook Stumbles After Announcing "Clear History" Feature, Developers Angry

Facebook is sliding lower today, back to earnings night levels, after announcing the implementation of a ‘Clear History’ feature will allow users to delete information from their accounts and to turn off Facebook’s ability to store information associated with accounts going forward.

Via By Erin Egan, VP and Chief Privacy Officer

Getting Feedback On New Tools to Protect People’s Privacy

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.

CEO Zuckerberg added that “This is an example of the kind of control we think you should have,”

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.

Once we roll out this update, you’ll be able to see information about the apps and websites you’ve interacted with, and you’ll be able to clear this information from your account. You’ll even be able to turn off having this information stored with your account.

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.

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.

One thing I learned from my experience testifying in Congress is that I didn’t have clear enough answers to some of the questions about data. We’re working to make sure these controls are clear, and we will have more to come soon.

For now the market is not impressed…

However, while Zuck and his crew attempt to recover from the exposure of their entire business model for what it is, NY Times reports that Facebook’s privacy changes have left developers steaming…

“Facebook threw us under the bus,” said Federico Treu, Cubeyou’s chief executive, who added that he intended to boycott a Facebook event for developers this week.

“Facebook became what it was because of us developers. Now they want to blame us for everything that has happened to them.”

Facebook’s relationship with its vast community of developers has reached a tense moment once more. Since news broke in late March that the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had improperly harvested the information of millions of Facebook users, the social network has made a series of changes to limit how much of its users’ information can be obtained by third parties. Those shifts have had an unintended domino effect on many of the companies and programmers that relied on Facebook’s spigot of data for their businesses.

Some, like Cubeyou, said they have been unfairly blocked from accessing Facebook users. Tinder, the dating app, discovered that its users were no longer able to log into the app using their Facebook accounts. Pod, a calendar syncing app, found that its users could no longer see Facebook events within their calendars. And Job Fusion, a jobs app that allowed users to see where their Facebook friends worked, announced that it was not longer able to offer its services within Facebook.

The fallout has cast a shadow over Facebook’s annual meeting with developers, which was scheduled to start today in San Jose, Calif.

The reference to “Clear History” – the movie that poked fun at tech firms from Tesla to Facebook – is not lost on us with the new FB feature…

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