Everyone from Google to Apple to Facebook is making updates to give users more control over their data, and while Google and Apple have been taking steps to update their browsers to limit tracking to the detriment of publishers, the big question mark lies squarely with Facebook and its “Clear History” tool.
Facebook hasn’t given much detail on how Clear History will work, but it has stated that the tool will be rolling out in 2019 after being promised in 2018. The basic purpose of the tool is to give Facebook users more control over their information, including the ability to delete information that Facebook has stored about them.
That’s where Clear History starts to get interesting and for both advertisers and Facebook, a little scary. After all, Facebook has positioned itself as a way to use data to target users with ads based on everything from their interests to the content they’ve been viewing. That’s the Facebook we’ve known, and that’s the Facebook that became part of a digital advertising duopoly.
But Clear History is a massive roll of the dice on a few fronts:
What does it mean for Facebook Pixel? Pixel lets advertisers know whether or not users took action after seeing ads, and it’s used to determine whether or not users should be served another ad. If a user removes his or her data, the effectiveness of Pixel goes way down.
What information can be removed? We still don’t know exactly how much control users will have on their data, but as soon as details are revealed, this should be the first thing advertisers look at to determine what will affect their campaigns and by how much.
Will users even take action? Trust in digital platforms, especially Facebook, has eroded significantly over the last two and a half years. When Clear History rolls out and users have the ability to put action behind their sentiment, it will be worth watching whether or not they do. We already know that concerns over privacy haven’t affected Facebook’s user numbers, despite frequent and public calls to not use Facebook from tech thought leaders. Clear History may be no different.
Clear History, while potentially very beneficial to users, is probably the biggest roll of the dice digital marketing will make in 2019. The ramifications could be huge in terms of how data is collected, what digital privacy hygiene looks like for users and how Facebook marketing works. My biggest concern is Facebook doesn’t even seem to fully understand what Clear History means for the future.