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Facebook complies with new EU rules, revamps privacy controls

Facebook announced an overhaul of its privacy tools, additional steps to make it easier for users to find and edit the personal information the company holds.

According to the statement announced on the company’s blog, the revamp was already planned ahead of the scandal in order to comply with new EU rules.

This effort is coming after intense criticism of the firm over how data of about 50 million users had been harvested and passed on to a political consultancy.

The announcement coincides with a fresh dispute with New Zealand’s privacy watchdog, which has accused Facebook of being in breach of local laws.

Facebook’s chief privacy officer acknowledged the damage which the Cambridge Analytica revelations had caused her company, at the start of her blog.

“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,” wrote 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 existing mobile settings menu, seen on the left, has been redesigned to look like the image on the right
The changes fall into three broad categories:

a “simplified” settings menu. At present mobile users face a list of about 17 different options, each of which is marked by short title. The new version regroups the controls and adds descriptions in an effort to make it clearer what each involves
a new privacy shortcuts menu. The dashboard brings together what the firm believes are the most critical controls into a single place. It suggests 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
revised data download and edit tools. 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
Although it is not mentioned in the blog, the BBC understands the firm also intends to make the link to fully delete an account more prominent.

A new Access Your Information page lets users search through their past activity by topic

The action precedes the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force on 25 May. The new law toughens the requirements on how organisations handle the public’s data, as well as imposing harsher penalties for breaches.

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