September 24, 2012
Facebook Tracks Search History, Promises Users Can Delete It Later
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Searches performed on Google and Facebook are already private, sure, but the potential to be incredibly embarrassed (and possibly incriminated) remains. With one glance of this history, anyone could suss out, with some accuracy, what kind of person performed these searches. It´s also likely this snooper would have all the blackmail they needed to get the searcher to do their bidding.
Now, Facebook is giving its users the opportunity to view and completely delete this history, though the question remains: Why is Facebook keeping track of search history?
Facebook announced this change in their Newsroom, saying, “Last year we rolled out a new tool called Activity Log to let you review and manage your activity on Facebook.”
“Starting today, in addition to your other activity, you'll be able to see the searches you're making on Facebook. Just as you can choose to delete any of your posts, you can use the same inline control on Activity Log to remove any of your searches at any time. It's important to remember that no one else can see your Activity Log, including your search activity.”
These activity logs will be updated “over the next few weeks” to add the ability to remove searches, according to Facebook´s announcement. To find these searches, users can click over to their Activity Logs.
In the beginning, this feature will only be available on the desktop version of Facebook and though Facebook is tacitly admitting that they´ll be keeping track of even more of your activities, they still say no one can view your activity log or search history.
Facebook says this new feature is an extension of their goal to put even more settings in one, centralized location.
So while it may be nice to have the opportunity to delete any shameful queries from your activity log, the question which remains to be answered is: “Why?”
Before this change rolled out, no one knew and no one asked what searches users were conducting on Facebook. While these histories are said to be private, they´re still being logged, and anyone with access to a users´ account could find them with relative ease.
Rather than provide extra functionality or security, this addition adds another opportunity for Facebook to fumble their privacy policies.
Their building it into the activity log also suggests that one day in the future this history could be shared with friends, either voluntarily or otherwise.
Facebook clearly wants to be where we live online; Where we meet, where we connect, even where we buy our apps. Collecting search history is just another way in which Facebook can persuade its users to leave its window open rather than navigating elsewhere on the web.
As pointed out by TechCrunch, Zuckerberg hinted towards this goal during his recent appearance at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference, saying: “Facebook is pretty uniquely positioned to answer the questions people have.” Zuckerberg then went on to discuss future plans for building a Google competitor, saying, “At some point we´ll do it. We have a team working on search.”
Facebook, like Google, makes their money selling its users´ information to advertisers. Keeping track of search history is just one more way Facebook can profit from their users in one way or another.