Facebook overhauls privacy settings following Cambridge Analytica scandal

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In a new blog post, Facebook has announced that it’s overhauling its security and privacy settings to make it easier for people to see and control the data they’re sharing with the social network.

This is an unsurprising announcement following the recent data harvesting scandal around Cambridge Analytica, which has resulted in apologies, investigations and a smart speaker delay.

Though Facebook insists that the changes were already in the works due to the GDPR’s upcoming reform of EU data protection rules, this blog post does acknowledge the damage the Cambridge Analytica revelations have caused to the company’s reputation.

Data disasters

“The last week showed how much more work we need to do to enforce our policies, and to help people understand how Facebook works and the choices they have over their data,” writes Chief Privacy Officer, Erin Egan. 

“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.”

The changes have been broken down into three categories: a cleaner and easier to use settings UI, a new privacy shortcuts menu, and new tools for tracking and editing the data you share.

The settings menu has been redesigned to make information easier to find and accessible from one place. You can see below how the new settings page looks compared to the old one; the sections are now regrouped and far more descriptive. 

The new privacy shortcuts menu gives more streamlined access to the most important facets of account security. Here you’ll be able to activate two-factor authentication, control you personal information, control which ads you see, and manage who sees your posts and profile information. 

Finally, the new data management tools. These can be found on a new page called Access your Information and it’s here you’ll be able to review your past interactions on the site such as likes and comments and have the option to delete them. Facebook says it’s also making it easier to download the data you’ve shared, such as images, contacts and posts in order to keep a secure copy.

It’s believable that this change has been in the works for a while given the new GDPR rules comes into play from May 25. The timing of the announcement, however, is significant and likely tactical.

As far as the future in concerned, Facebook says that in "the coming weeks" it will be proposing terms of service changes as well as updating its data policy for more transparency around what data is taken and how it's used.

With user trust in decline, widespread calls for deletion and large companies pulling away from the service, Facebook needs to be seen to be doing something other than apologizing. Whether this will be enough remains to be seen.