This week, Facebook announced a new “clear history” tool for users that will allow them to erase all personal data gathered from websites and apps outside of Facebook. Users are rejoicing the release of this new tool, but brands and advertisers are properly pissed. When folks use this tool to delete data, it means that advertisers can no longer target based on this information. Popular features like Facebook Pixel and Custom Audiences built from website and app visitors can no longer be used for targeting. Facebook has stated that the tool will be available “in the coming months.”
Facebook is releasing this tool in response to increased scrutiny over data collection and privacy policies. And they’re just one of many in the digital industry making changes to consumer protect privacy, subsequently impacting advertiser performance. Google recently new anti-tracking features for Chrome, Apple has implemented stronger anti-tracking on Safari, GDPR rocked websites around the world, and California Consumer Privacy Act is about to rocked them in the US.
As an advertiser, it’s difficult not to get frustrated and depressed by this news. And to feel a little duped. For years Facebook has touted themselves as the optimal way to reach the right people, and we’ve come to rely on them for awareness, engagement and sales. Now they’re taking all that away.
Like any good business, Facebook is trying to provide a positive spin. In a blog post intended for advertisers they stated: “We believe that offering people greater transparency and control will ultimately have a positive, long-term effect on businesses using Facebook."
While that may or may not be true in the long-term, what is true in the short-term is that advertisers will suffer. And there’s not a damned thing we can do, except know it’s coming.
So here are the key things you need to know about Facebook’s Clear History tool:
Users will see which websites send browsing activity to Facebook and have the option to remove that info from the company's servers.
Once a user disconnects their activity, that data can no longer be used for targeting. That means no more retargeting people that visit your site but don’t take action and no more cart abandonment targeting.
It’s only for off-Facebook activity, not things people do on Facebook. So we’ll still be able to target based on demographics, interests and behaviors that occur on Facebook.
Measurement and analytics won’t be impacted. Users can disconnect their activity, but it doesn’t actually delete any of the data. It simply makes it anonymous. So businesses will still receive reporting. Well, Facebook “anticipates” it won’t be impacted, so we shall see.
We don’t know how Facebook will promote the tool, so it’s tough to predict if users will adopt it. And if Facebook makes it mandatory to view the tool, will consumers even care? According to research, 75% of consumers don’t really care that they’re sharing data with companies, so long as they’re getting something in return.
Another potential silver lining - ad revenue is how Facebook makes money. They’re being forced to make changes that will negatively impact advertisers, which will likely result in less advertising spend and thus less revenue for Facebook. So you can bet their bottom dollar that they already have ideas for new ways to leverage data to reach customers.
As has become custom in this rapidly changing industry, we’ll have to wait and see how this new tool will truly impact advertising campaigns and businesses once it launches. It’s not looking good, but we’ve all been here before, and we’re ready to adapt and move forward.