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Meta tracks your Facebook link history, but now you can opt out

A close-up of the Facebook mobile app is being displayed on a smartphone screen next to those of TikTok, Telegram, Instagram, X, YouTube, and Messenger in Brussels, Belgium, on November 30, 2023. (Photo by Jonathan Raa/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Jonathan Raa/NurPhoto via Getty Images

If you’ve opened your Facebook settings lately, you may have seen a new “Link History” option. This is a library that saves all the links users click on. Meta, Facebook’s parent company, is touting this new setting as a “feature” so users never lose a link again, but it appears to be an added layer to the company’s tracking mechanisms.

Link History stores all the links users click on within the Facebook mobile app on Android and iOS for 30 days. While this might sound convenient to some users as a tool to keep track of their browsing activity, Meta does disclose that it may also “use this information to improve your ads across Meta technologies.” 

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The Link History setting is being rolled out gradually but appears to be turned on by default, with users forced to manually navigate to the settings tab to disable it if they don’t want their link clicks tracked and stored. This means that many users would unknowingly consent to this tracking tactic. 

When tracking your clicked links leads to targeted advertisements and who knows what else, the line between delivering a useful tool and yet another Meta dark pattern gets significantly blurred.

How to turn off Facebook’s Link History

Amid privacy concerns and legislation that aims to protect user data, Meta continues to push its data harvesting tactics within its products. Here’s how you can turn off Facebook Link History:

Open your Facebook app on your iOS or Android device and log in. 

Open the Facebook app

Screenshot by Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Tap on Menu to access your account menu and information. This is typically found in the lower right corner.

Go to your Menu

Screenshot by Maria Diaz/ZDNET

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Tap on the Settings & privacy tab and then select Settings to access your account settings.

Tap on Settings & Privacy and go to Settings

Screenshot by Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Scroll down and tap on Browser. The Link History setting tracks the links you’ve clicked in the Facebook app that are then opened on the app’s Browser,

Scroll down to find Browser

Screenshot by Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Under Browsing data, disable the “Allow link history” option so that it’s turned off. 

If you can’t see this option in your Facebook settings, the ability to opt out of Facebook’s Link History probably hasn’t rolled out to your account yet.

Disable Link History

Screenshot by Maria Diaz/ZDNET

FAQ 

Can you clear your link history on Facebook?

Yes, even if you have the Link History tracking feature enabled, you can still access your Link History at any time and clear it. The option to clear your Link History in the Facebook app’s Browser Settings, where you can also enable and disable it.

How long does Meta save Facebook’s Link History?

Meta says it stores links clicked within the Facebook app for up to 30 days. If you turn off the Link History setting, Meta says it can take up to 90 days to delete your Link History.

Does Meta track the links visited outside the Facebook app?

The Link History setting only saves links that you visit within the Facebook app. If you enable this setting, all the links you click on within Facebook will be saved in a repository that you can view, but you won’t see any links you click on outside the Facebook app.

Didn’t Meta already track clicked links?

Meta has a murky history with user privacy so it’s packaging the Link History tactic as a privacy feature rather than a tracking mechanism. This new setting appears to give users control over the links they click on within Facebook, but Meta was already tracking this information for Facebook and Instagram users. 

Also: Big tech is actually doing all this with your personal data. True or false?

The difference? This is the first time Meta gives users control over this setting. Meta doesn’t yet allow users to disable Link History on Instagram, which also opens clicked links on a built-in browser. 


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