Meta, the company formally known as Facebook, wants to make navigating its mobile app even simpler thanks to a Link History setting for its mobile app. This will create a repository of all the links you have clicked on while using the Facebook mobile app.
Supposedly the Link history setting will be turned on by default, but an initial pop-up will give users the option to turn it off. It is designed to collect and store the links in a single place which will make it easier for users to find and revisit links that they've been to before. Meta is selling this new setting as a useful tool for consumers. Although Facebook has made it clear that if users allow Link History, then it may use the information to improve the ads seen across the app.
For the most part, the option to keep track of all the links might appear as a positive, but Facebook has been known to harvest data before and this may be another method to do so while remaining GDPR compliant. There is an interesting parallel between this method and Google's recent drive to remove third-party cookies.
The question is how both companies could use this data and what threat it may pose to the user. Initially, the main worry will come from the companies selling this data to interested parties, but it is quite strictly regulated under EU law. Facebook has made it clear that it will delete the saved Link History after 30 days, but exactly how that might affect the ads shown has not been mentioned.
Meanwhile, Google has aimed to completely remove the option to choose third-party cookies from any site visited on Chrome as a part of their new privacy sandbox initiative. For those who have not heard the phrase before, cookies are essentially compiled data about you that is designed to improve the experience on each site and create targeted ads based on your preferences.
One of the odd aspects of the Link History setting is that it is not currently on offer for desktop versions of Facebook, and it is not clear if it would still come into effect when using the site through a browser over the official app. However, Facebook and Meta have made it clear that they are aiming to introduce the feature across both iOS and Android in the next few months.
With the current crackdown on data mining and customer protection, it is up to big companies to find new ways to build databases. While Google’s option involves more security, it still puts most of the data in their hands, which is the same as Meta’s new link history. Seeing the end of cookies and being able to revisit links with ease seem like good additions, but it will have to be monitored closely to protect the average user.
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Josh is a staff writer for Tom's Guide and is based in the UK. He has worked for several publications but now works primarily on mobile phones. Outside of phones, he has a passion for video games, novels, and Warhammer.