Facebook to broaden its privacy settings for all users

The service changes come as a result of a new EU law set to come into force in May

Facebook app on phone

Update 04/04/18 05:02pm ET: A widely circulated Reuters report claimed that Facebook only planned to release these privacy features in Europe, despite the initial January announcement stating they would roll out to users around the world.

However, in a recent press call discussing the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed that the privacy features will indeed come to all users, not just those in the European Union.

“We intend to make all the controls and settings available everywhere, not just in Europe,” Zuckerberg said. “Overall, regulations like the GDPR are very positive.”

Facebook has announced it will be making it easier for its more than two billion users around the world to manage their personal information.

“We’re rolling out a new privacy centre globally that will put the core privacy settings for Facebook in one place and make it much easier for people to manage their data,” Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, said at an event in Brussels, Belgium.

The new settings come in response to a strict European Union law that takes effect in May. The law, known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), is said to be the largest overhaul of personal data privacy rules since the birth of the internet.

The GDPR aims to offer Europeans greater control over their personal information, as well as impose more strict guidelines as to how companies are able to use that information.

Any company that breaches the law will face a maximum penalty of 4 percent of global annual turnover or 20 million euros ($24.50 million USD), whichever is higher.

“Our apps have long been focused on giving people transparency and control and this gives us a very good foundation to meet all the requirements of the GDPR and to spur us on to continue investing in products and in educational tools to protect privacy,” Sandberg said.

Moreover, Sandberg said that Facebook hasn’t done enough to stop people from misusing its platform, and will therefore double the number of staff working on safety and security to 20,000 by the end of 2018.

Earlier this week, Facebook also published a blog post that admitted it can sometimes be damaging to democracy. “In 2016, we at Facebook were far too slow to recognize how bad actors were abusing our platform,” Facebook’s product manager of civic engagement, Samidh Chakrabarti, wrote in an essay. “We’re working diligently to neutralize these risks now.”

One of the ways Facebook aims to do this is in eliminating financial incentives to spread fake news. “People write these headlines to get clicks to make money,” Sandberg said. “So if we can prevent people from being part of our ad networks, prevent people from advertising and take away the financial incentive, that is one of the strongest things we can do against false news, and we are very focused on this.”

To that end, Facebook offers guidelines on the kind of content publishers should and shouldn’t post, although the social media giant’s efforts to shake up the News Feed can sometimes inadvertently lead to a further spread of fake news.

Overall, though, the presence of news stories on the platform is set to change, with Facebook planning to completely revamp the News Feed to prioritize posts from Facebook friends over content from publishers.

Source: Reuters