Facebook data scandal prompts redesign of settings, privacy pages

Doug Carpenter
March 30, 2018

The fallout from reports in several publications that Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed the Facebook data of 50 million users has continued.

Still firmly in damage limitation mode, Facebook has announced updates to how its bewildering settings menus are displayed and how the privacy of its two billion users can be tightened.

Facebook Inc has adjusted privacy settings to give users more control over their information in a few taps, it said on Wednesday, after an outcry over a whistleblower's allegations that members' data was used to sway the 2016 USA election.

The first thing the company is doing is simplifying the settings menu on mobile. Instead of spreading different settings across 20 screens, most of the settings are now accessible from a single screen. Settings, which had previously been separated by asking questions like "How do I stop someone from bothering me?", are now divided into security, personal information, ads you see and management of who sees your posts and profile information.

India's government has sent a notice to Facebook asking whether the personal data of Indian voters and users has been compromised by United Kingdom -based Cambridge Analytica or any other downstream entity.

Do you want to download your data for backup purposes, or to rid yourself entirely of the social network?

The changes won't affect Facebook's privacy policies or the types of data it gathers about its users.

The update follows the recent controversy brewing over an alleged data breach of almost 50 million Facebook users. Facebook has announced that it is making it easier to find its privacy tools and menu.

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. Don't like something? Facebook will let users delete it here.

In the coming weeks, the company says it will update its terms of service and data policy to "better spell out what data we collect and how we use it".

Facebook's Android-based data collection practices were put under the spotlight late last week by software developer Dylan McKay, who downloaded and sifted through a copy of the data his Facebook account had on him - something anyone can do under Facebook's General Settings. "These updates are about transparency - not about gaining new rights to collect, use, or share data", the company said.

On Tuesday, Facebook opted not to make Zuckerberg available to testify before a key parliamentary committee in the United Kingdom investigating the same issue, which had asked him to appear.

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