Facebook on Wednesday announced an overhaul of its privacy tools that will make it easier for users to find and edit the personal information the company holds. The move followed intense criticism of the social media giant after it emerged that data of about 50 million users had been harvested and passed on to political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica.
The London-based political research organisation, which collaborated with the election campaign of Donald Trump in the runup to the 2016 US vote, used the leaked information to develop a computer programme to predict the decisions of US voters and influence them. However, Facebook said the revamp was already in the works ahead of the scandal in order to comply with new EU rules.
The announcement coincided with a fresh dispute with New Zealand's privacy watchdog, which accused Facebook of being in breach of local laws.
The changes fell into three categories and were announced in a blog. At present, mobile users see a list of about 17 different options, each of which is marked by a short title. However, the new version regroups the controls and adds descriptions to make it simpler.
A comparison of the old settings menu (left) and new settings menu (right).
Now, there is a new privacy shortcuts menu. The dashboard brings together what the firm said "were the most critical controls into a single place. It suggested this will make it faster for people to do things such as review the posts they have shared or reacted to, and to limit the information used to target ads at them.
Also, a new page called Access Your Information allows users to review past interactions with the site -- including the things they have "liked" and the comments they have posted -- with the option to make deletions.
In addition, members will be able to download specific categories of data -- including their photos -- from a selected time range, rather than only being able to export a single large file that might take hours to obtain.
"It’s also our responsibility to tell you how we collect and use your data in language that’s detailed, but also easy to understand. In the coming weeks, we’ll be proposing updates to Facebook’s terms of service that include our commitments to people. We’ll also update our data policy to better spell out what data we collect and how we use it. These updates are about transparency – not about gaining new rights to collect, use, or share data. We’ve worked with regulators, legislators and privacy experts on these tools and updates. We’ll have more to share in the coming weeks, including updates on the measures Mark shared last week," said the Facebook blogpost.
The action preceded the EU's General Data Protection Regulation, which will come into force on May 25. The new law will toughen the requirements on how organisations handle the public's data, as well as impose harsher penalties for breaches.