Facebook unveils long-promised tool to limit what data it receives from third-party apps and websites. But will not allow users to delete info.

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Facebook unveiled its long-awaited feature allowing users to limit businesses, apps, and other groups that collect data about them on the Web and pass that information to the tech giant — a move that may disappoint people who thought they would be able to delete that information from Facebook in full. The social media giant said the new tools to control “Off-Facebook Activity” are designed to “shed more light” on a form of online tracking — around shopping habits, web-browsing histories and other activities — that determines some of the ads people see on Facebook. Users now can choose to remove this history from their accounts and turn off some or all of that tracking in the future. The tools are being rolled out in Spain, Ireland and South Korea beginning Aug 20, with additional availability in the coming months.

The feature comes more than a year after Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg first pledged to build a function called “Clear History” that he said would work much the same way a browser allows people to see and delete information about the sites they visited. The goal had been to empower users to “flush your history whenever you want,” he said in May 2018, admitting the company hadn’t been clear about all the ways it learns about its users. But the implementation of those controls doesn’t exactly flush data, as Zuckerberg had promised. Instead, it disconnects information from being identified to a specific user, and it isn’t deleted outright. Facebook officials previously said users could “delete this information from your account,” a pledge that might have led users to believe Facebook would remove it entirely. The controls also won’t prevent Facebook from reporting back to another business whenever users generally purchase their product after seeing an ad targeted to them — one of the most attractive elements of the Facebook platform, underpinning its lucrative success, in the eyes of companies that want to reach specific audiences and measure the impact of their ads.

Facebook unveils long-promised tool to limit what data it receives from third-party apps and websites Facebook’s New Tool Lets You See Which Apps and Websites Tracked You (New York Times)