Facebook has been playing a shell game with your privacy for years, but now it says it will put all of the settings that control your data under one shell.
In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal in which Facebook lost control of 50 million users’ personal data, the social media company’s stock price has fallen by nearly 18 per cent. No matter how many public hearings CEO Mark Zuckerberg turns down, the company just can’t seem to win back the trust of the public or investors. But it’s trying. In a blog post on Wednesday, Facebook representatives said they’re going back to that old standby: Moving around your privacy settings.
According to the post, the new privacy and data controls will be rolled out “in the coming weeks”. Without having used the new menu options, we can only know what Facebook is telling us. The post says that its mobile app will get an entirely new interface for navigating privacy and data settings that will collapse “nearly 20 different screens” into a single page. It does not specify if the menus will change on the desktop interface – we asked Facebook for clarification but had not revived a reply at time of writing.
The new “Privacy Shortcuts” menu will include “clearer explanations” of how each control works, and it will feature cute graphics to help ease your boredom. You’ll have a clean portal to review and delete information you’ve shared that will be used in targeted advertising. (Hint: Delete it all.) And it will be easier to locate the option for downloading all your data in a zipped archive. Facebook says you can “even move it to another service”. Just food for thought.
The Facebook reps say that these changes have been “in the works for some time”. How long? We don’t know, but they say “the events of the past several days underscore their importance”. Losing close to $US100 billion ($130 billion) for stockholders really does accelerate the development cycle.
In 2011, Facebook settled a case with the FTC over charges that it failed to follow through on numerous promises it made to users about privacy protections. Some experts say that the Cambridge Analytica case actually shows that the social media giant violated the subsequent consent decree which resolved that helped settle that matter. And wouldn’t you know it, the FTC is investigating Facebook once again. Time will tell if Facebook follows through on its most recent promises.
One glaring piece of missing information is how users will be notified that there are new settings and how it will encourage users to take advantage of them. We know that Facebook has a ton of control over what people see in their news feed, and it can tell if a user has taken action on that information. Maybe it could just keep running a big notification over and over until the settings are adjusted. We asked Facebook how it plans to make users more aware of their options but had not heard back at time of writing.