The flashiest headlines coming out of Facebook’s F8 2018 developers conference on Tuesday may have been about augmented reality coming to Messenger, a planned dating service, or Instagram integrating with GroPro and Spotify, but a brief post made on CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook page was likely the most important news of the day to the social network’s 2.2 billion users.
Unveiling “Clear History,” a forthcoming data privacy feature that users have clamoring over for years, Zuckerberg describes “a simple control to clear your browsing history on Facebook — what you’ve clicked on, websites you’ve visited, and so on.”
Likening the forthcoming tool to web browsers’ cache- and cookie-dumping capabilities—a standard feature that has been available on every major browser for years—Zuckerberg says Clear History will show users what apps and websites they’ve interacted with on Facebook, and for the first time not only let them clear that data from their user accounts, but bar the social network from collecting it again moving forward.
Though the Clear History feature is a relatively minor control, its announcement is hugely important because it shows how far the company has come in its realization of consumers and regulators’ discomfort over the amount of personal data that Facebook collects—even when users are offline.
The public’s awakening to the use (and misuse) of its user data has resulted in dozens of lawsuits for everything from negligence and invasion of privacy to violations of state consumer protection laws. Features like Clear History are a must if Facebook will ever be able to regain consumer trust and answer the myriad questions about what happens with its users data.
“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,” Zuckerberg writes in the Clear History post. “We’re working to make sure these controls are clear, and we will have more to come soon.”
The announcement does not say when Clear History will be released.