Facebook is Launching New Privacy Tools & Controls

The words “Facebook” and “privacy” are fairly loaded at the moment.

The company has battled weeks of bad press and user outrage after the revelation that the data of millions of users may have been inappropriately shared with Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm linked to the Trump campaign. And this Wednesday, Facebook amended its original estimate from around 50 million affected users, to up to 87 million users.

The questions on everyone’s mind seem to be: what is Facebook doing to address this scandal, and how will the company prevent it from happening again?

Erin Egan, VP and Chief Privacy Officer, Policy and Ashlie Beringer, VP and Deputy General Counsel wrote a blog post on March 28, stating:

So in addition to Mark Zuckerberg’s announcements last week – cracking down on abuse of the Facebook platform, strengthening our policies, and making it easier for people to revoke apps’ ability to use your data – we’re taking additional steps in the coming weeks to put people more in control of their privacy.

New features include:

  • Account settings that are easier to find, and centralized in a single location
  • A new privacy shortcuts menu, where users can add two-factor authentication, and control ad and personal information sharing preferences
  • Tools to find, download and delete Facebook data

Josh Sternberg, tech editor at Adweek, wrote that this focus on improving privacy personalization doesn’t fully address why users’ data was released in the first place:

It’s not like we autopopulate your profile with personal interests. That’s on you, buddy. And a lot of people use Facebook to log in to other apps. So, it’s not really our problem if you can’t keep track of what data you’re sending out into the world.

There’s a Silicon Valley logic to all of this. Blame the user, not the platform.

Facebook’s disclosures this week acknowledged more responsibility in user data being harvested and used without their knowledge. CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who is expected to testify before Congress next week, announced that Facebook will offer all users the controls required under European privacy rules. Facebook will begin notifying users next Monday if their information may have been shared with Cambridge Analytica.

Mike Schroepfer, Chief Technology Officer, published a statement Wednesday highlighting nine ways the company plans to restrict data access more rigorously in the future, including changes to:

  • Events API
  • Groups API
  • Pages API
  • Facebook Login
  • Instagram Platform API
  • Search and Account Recovery
  • Call and Text History
  • Data Providers and Partner Categories
  • App Controls

“We know we have more work to do — and we’ll keep you updated as we make more changes,” Schroepfer wrote.

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