Don’t panic: Facebook’s new ‘clear history’ tool won’t spell doom for digital marketers

As Facebook trials its new 'clear history' tool in a few select countries, King Kong's Sabri Suby considers what the social media giant's new privacy-friendly direction will mean for digital marketers and advertisers.

As he begins to mop up the PR disaster that is his company’s various privacy scandals, Mark Zuckerberg’s new war cry is privacy. Facebook’s latest ‘clear history’ tool is something he’s been promising for a while, and it’s finally here.

At the moment, Off-Facebook Activity is only accessible to people in Ireland, South Korea and Spain, but Facebook swears it will be rolling out everywhere “over the coming months”. But Australian marketers shouldn’t run scared.

The loophole

Off-Facebook Activity lets users see which apps and websites are sending information about their activity to Facebook. But the more explosive news for digital marketers is that the new feature lets users clear this information from their account, and opt-out from any future tracking.

But before you set your Facebook Business Account on fire and start searching for a new career, let’s take a look at a strategic loophole. Wired has alerted the world to the fact that “future off-Facebook activity will be disconnected within 48 hours from when it’s received”, during which time it may be “used for measurement purposes and to make improvements to our ads systems”.

So what does this actually mean? Facebook will still collect users’ browsing information, and it will still be connected to their account for up to two days. Off-Facebook Activity won’t actually delete browsing data from Facebook’s servers – it just removes the information from personal profiles. Advertisers will still be able to access the same data, just an aggregated version.

Facebook has reassured advertisers that measurement will remain intact, and that it will still “provide accurate measurement to help businesses understand the impact of their Facebook investment”.

The biggest change for advertisers is that Facebook’s retargeting offerings – such as Dynamic Product Ads – won’t be available after that 48 hour period. While this might seem like a big sacrifice to some, remember that retargeting is just one small part of the bigger digital advertising picture. There are still truckloads of ways to exploit on-Facebook activity, including custom and lookalike audiences.

Quit the Facebook drug

Facebook has built a killer digital advertising ecosystem, but many digital marketers have become addicted to the drug. The truth is, your digital advertising strategy should be strong enough to survive a few changes to Facebook’s privacy policy. If it’s not, then you’ve got far bigger issues than a few tweaks to a privacy menu.

I’ve always prescribed moving potential customers off Facebook as quickly as possible. Work insanely hard to funnel them onto your email list, where you control the data and can follow up with them whenever you choose, until their dying day.

Don’t panic

Despite its supposed new era of privacy, the amount of information Facebook has on its users is the same. Whatever Facebook says, at the end of the day, it is a public company with shareholders to please. And unless it’s planning on completely deforming its business model, Facebook remains a business that relies on off-Facebook advertising. A leopard doesn’t change its spots.

These changes will only affect those users who actually care about their privacy, and can be bothered to change their settings. I’m willing to bet that most Facebook users aren’t even aware the option is there.

Sabri Suby is the founder of King Kong


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