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Facebook’s New ‘Link History’ Feature

Facebook has recently introduced a new feature called “Link History.” This addition to the Facebook mobile app creates a repository of all the links clicked by users. While this feature is automatically enabled, users have the option to opt out. 

The data collected is primarily used for targeted advertising. This move comes at a time when tech regulations are intensifying, and companies like Apple and Google are enhancing privacy restrictions.

Overview of ‘Link History’

Facebook pitches ‘Link History’ as a consumer-friendly tool, emphasizing its utility in keeping browsing activity organized in one place. The company suggests that this feature will ensure users “never lose a link again.” 

However, the platform acknowledges that the information gathered may be used to improve ad targeting across Meta technologies. Facebook has assured that any Link History data will be deleted within 90 days if a user decides to turn off the setting. The rollout of this feature is global but gradual.

Privacy Implications and User Control

Historically, Meta (Facebook’s parent company) has tracked the links clicked by users without offering much visibility or control over this data collection. ‘Link History’ marks the first time users are given some degree of oversight over this aspect of Meta’s internet surveillance. However, the feature raises questions about the extent of privacy it actually offers. 

For instance, when a link is clicked in the Facebook or Instagram apps, it loads in an in-app browser. In 2022, privacy researcher Felix Krause discovered that Meta injects JavaScript into these pages, enabling the monitoring of all user interactions, including typing and tapping.

The introduction of ‘Link History’ contrasts with the industry’s move towards more stringent privacy controls. Apple’s App Tracking Transparency and Google’s plan to phase out cookies in Chrome are examples of this trend. 

Meanwhile, Meta continues to track user activities on other websites through tools like the ‘Meta Pixel.’ This creates a complex web of data collection and user privacy settings that can be challenging to navigate.

Facebook’s new ‘Link History’ feature represents a nuanced shift in the company’s approach to user data and privacy. While it offers some level of transparency and control, it also highlights the ongoing challenges and complexities in balancing user privacy with the business models of major tech companies. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, the conversation around user data and privacy is likely to remain a critical topic.

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