Facebook Launches “Link History”, a Tool Set to Track Users’ Browsing Habits

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publicerad 17 januari 2024
- News@NewsVoice
Facebook Link History. Photo: Will Francis License: Unsplash
Facebook Link History

Facebook recently introduced a new feature called “Link History” to help users track the links they click within Facebook. It catalogues the websites you have visited on Facebook, allowing you to get back to them whenever you need. For instance, if you click on a link to buy online lottery tickets from Lottoland while browsing through the Facebook app, “Link History” will store this particular link for 30 days.

However, according to Meta, only links accessed via mobile phones will have their link histories stored. In that case, all links clicked when browsing through Facebook on personal computers, as well as those sent via Facebook Messenger, will not be stored.

Balancing Convenience and Privacy

While Facebook positions this feature as a convenient way for users to keep track of their browsing activity, it also raises concerns about data privacy and security, especially when the tech giants have had several lawsuits due to data harvesting practices.

As presented by Facebook, the Link History tool serves a dual purpose. On one hand, it allows users to easily revisit links they have clicked on within the Facebook app. Conversely, Facebook will use link history information for targeted ads across Meta technologies.

The feature is particularly beneficial for those who may have previously struggled to locate specific links in their expansive browsing history.

However, the tool’s default setting implies that users are automatically enrolled in this data collection process. This aligns with Meta’s broader strategy to track user behaviour both within and outside its platforms.

The data collected is not only intended for users’ benefit but also plays a crucial role in refining Facebook’s targeted advertising efforts across its Meta technologies, including Instagram. Critics argue the tool should be off and allow users to turn it on.

Addressing Privacy Concerns and Compliance Challenges

The introduction of the Link History tool comes at a time when privacy regulations are tightening across Europe. Tech companies face increased scrutiny as they are expected to adopt measures to enhance transparency and offer users more control over their data to comply with data protection regulations. Facebook, in particular, has previously faced fines from EU regulators for allegedly compelling users to consent to targeted ads.

The Link History tool is seen as a step towards addressing these concerns as it gives users the option to opt out of having their link clicks recorded.

Despite the opt-out feature, the uncertainty around the extent of online activity tracking when Link History is disabled remains a concern. Some experts argue that people may opt into it without much consideration.

This is especially true considering the fact that Meta advertises it as a tool to help users avoid losing links. In that case, users must consider the trade-off between convenience and privacy when turning this feature on or off.

Global Rollout

The Link History tool is available only on the Facebook app for Android and iPhone. It’s unavailable for computer users and doesn’t record links clicked in Messenger. Moreover, it is currently not available globally but is being introduced gradually.

Link History could be unavailable in your region if you don’t find it on your Facebook app. Unfortunately, Meta has not issued a global timeline for the tool’s availability.

How to Opt-Out in Link History

Because the tool is turned on by default, users must opt out to prevent it from tracking their browsing history. Follow these few simple steps to turn it off.

  • Click any link within the Facebook app to open Facebook’s Mobile Browser.
  • Tap the three dots [ ] in the bottom right corner of the screen
  • Select “Browser Settings”
  • Toggle off the “Allow Link History” option

Follow the same procedure to opt in. Once the toggle is turned off, Facebook says it will cease tracking and recording your link history and immediately clears it.

That means you can’t see links you have clicked on previously. However, it may take up to 90 days to clear inside Meta servers. This means they might still use the data for targeted ads.

Conclusion

As Facebook continues to innovate and introduce features like Link History, users find themselves at the intersection of convenience and privacy concerns. While the tool offers a practical solution for organising and revisiting links, users must weigh the advantages against potential privacy implications.

As the rollout progresses, it remains to be seen how users worldwide will respond to this latest addition to Facebook’s repertoire of features designed to enhance user engagement and advertising capabilities.


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