Facebook’s Link History Feature ⇥ gizmodo.com
Thomas Germain, Gizmodo:
Facebook recently rolled out a new “Link History” setting that creates a special repository of all the links you click on in the Facebook mobile app. Users can opt-out, but Link History is turned on by default, and the data is used for targeted ads. As lawmakers introduce tech regulations and Apple and Google beef up privacy restrictions, Meta is doubling down and searching for new ways to preserve its data harvesting empire.
This is a confusing feature and an even more confusing story. It sounds like this is a new vector for data harvesting but, as Germain writes a few paragraphs later, Facebook has long tracked what users do across the web — when they click on a link from Facebook, and also when they visit a webpage anywhere containing Facebook’s tracking tools. Meta tracks your activity across the web because users nominally agreed to it when they signed up and did not read the legal contract they signed, and because the administrators of many websites big and small want to advertise on Meta’s platforms and have been deputized by Meta to help build audience profiles. This is no longer newsworthy. It sucks.
Also, Link History is not brand new, as far as I can tell. The Internet Archive saved a copy of the documentation for this feature in September. (Due to some sort of quirk with how Facebook serves these pages and how Archive saves them, it will appear blank. However, if you view the HTML source, you will see it is the same page with the same text.)
Finally, it is not clear to me that turning this feature off will have the privacy bonafides it may seem. The documentation says, after toggling it off, Facebook “won’t save your link history or use it to improve your ads across Meta technologies”, but that does not necessarily mean the pages you visit will not inform which ads you see if you have not also changed your off-Meta activity settings. The kindest interpretation of such granular and distinct settings is to allow people to make more specific changes. The realistic explanation is that it is very confusing, and most people will just stick with the defaults anyway.