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Facebook launches ‘link history’ tool that tracks where people go on the internet

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Facebook is rolling out a new tool that lets it track the links users click on.

The new system, called “link history”, is a catalogue of websites that people have visited within Facebook. That is stored in one location and visitors can navigate back to it to see where they have clicked.

Facebook is marketing the new feature as a way of storing links that might otherwise be lost or forgotten. “Easily get back to recent links you’ve visited with your Facebook browsing activity now saved in one place,” the pop-up on the site reads.

However, the tool also gives that same information to Facebook, which it will use for ads. “When you allow link history, we may use your information to improve your ads across Meta technologies,” it notes, which also means that information from the link history could be shared with Instagram, for instance.

The feature is on by default, but it can be turned off. It is also not rolling out for everyone, with Facebook saying that it is “being introduced globally over time and may not be available in your location”.

When a user opens a link from a Facebook feed, for instance, it does not open in the browser app but rather within Facebook’s own “Mobile Browser”. That means that users don’t leave the Facebook app but also gives the company more ability to track people as they browse around the internet.

The link history tool keeps a collection of those links that have been clicked within the last 30 days. “When link history is on, any links that you’ve tapped inside of Facebook and visited in Facebook’s Mobile Browser will be saved here for 30 days,” a help site for the feature reads.

It can be turned off from within the Facebook ad for iOS and Android, which is the only place it is currently available.

Users need to first click a link to open the Mobile Browser, and then choose the three dots in the bottom right, and selecting “Browser settings”. The option to allow link history should show on that page, and users can opt either to leave it on or turn it off.

“When you turn link history off, we will immediately clear your link history and you will no longer be able to see any links that you’ve visited. Additionally, we won’t save your link history or use it to improve your ads across Meta technologies,” Facebook says.

It also notes that it may take up to 90 days for the data collected in the link history to actually be cleared from Meta’s servers.