Facebook to Update Privacy Controls, Making It Easier for Users to Delete Their Data

Facebook, still scrambling to respond to the user-data scandal that has blown up in the last two weeks, announced a series of updates to its privacy tools designed to calm users’ fears.

The social-media giant promises to make privacy settings easier to find and use. The updates, which Facebook said will roll out over the next few weeks, include a new section called “Access Your Information” to provide a simpler way for users to find and delete posts or personal profile info.

The new Access Your Information section will be “a secure way for people to access and manage their information, such as posts, reactions, comments, and things you’ve searched for. You can go here to delete anything from your timeline or profile that you no longer want on Facebook,” Erin Egan, VP and chief privacy officer for policy and deputy general counsel Ashlie Beringer wrote in a blog post Wednesday.

In addition, Facebook said, users will be able to more easily manage information that the company uses to serve targeted advertising.

Of course, Facebook users can also permanently cancel their accounts — as advocates behind the #DeleteFacebook movement urge — which is an outcome the company would like to avoid. About 8% of Facebook users said they plan to stop using the service because of data-privacy concerns raised by the Cambridge Analytica scandal, according to a survey fielded by Raymond James & Associates. Meanwhile, 48% indicated they would not change their usage, 26% said they would use Facebook “somewhat less” and 19% said they will use it “significantly less.”

Most of Facebook’s updates to user controls “have been in the works for some time, but the events of the past several days underscore their importance,” the execs wrote.

That’s an understatement. The revelation that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica surreptitiously gained access to 50 million Facebook users — without their consent — has thrown the company into a tailspin. Investor concerns over potential new government regulations and other disruptions to Facebook’s business have driven the stock down more than 17% since March 16. The company’s market value has plunged more than $90 billion since the scandal broke.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg alluded to making privacy tools easier to access in his first public statement about the Cambridge Analytica situation last week. In the March 28 announcement, the Facebook execs said that the company worked with regulators, legislators and privacy experts on the tools and updates.

“We’ve heard loud and clear that privacy settings and other important tools are too hard to find and that we must do more to keep people informed,” Egan and Beringer wrote in the post.

Here are the changes Facebook said will be coming its apps in the coming weeks:

  • Centralized controls: The entire settings menu on mobile devices will be consolidated into one place, whereas settings have been spread across nearly 20 different screens. Facebook also has “cleaned up” outdated settings to make it clear what information can and cannot be shared with third-party apps, the company said.
  • New Privacy Shortcuts menu: The toolbar will provide access to setting in way that’s “clearer, more visual, and easy-to-find,” Facebook said. The shortcuts menu promise to let users quickly review data they’ve shared (and delete it if they want to), manage who’s allowed to view their posts and profile information; and add two-factor authentication.
  • Easier access to downloading data and information shared on Facebook: The new Access Your Information section, Facebook said, will make it easier to download a secure copy of everything someone has shared — including timeline posts, contacts and photos — and even migrate that to another service.

 

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