Friday 27 April 2018

Facebook to bring in clearer privacy controls for mobiles

Stock photo
Stock photo
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Facebook is introducing new privacy controls following the global outcry over how the social media giant has allowed personal data to be inappropriately shared and manipulated.

The company has re-organised its privacy settings into one place on the phone app in response to criticism they are too difficult to find.

It has also reworked its app so people can see more clearly what personal information advertisers have access to and how to cut down the levels of data given over.

The company is still attempting to recover from the international scandal that saw a British political firm, Cambridge Analytica, misuse personal data of up to 50 million Facebook users to help elect Donald Trump as US president in 2016.

"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," said Erin Egan, vice-president of Facebook and its chief privacy officer.

"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."

Facebook said a new privacy shortcuts menu will allow users to quickly increase account security, manage who can see their information and activity on the site and review what posts they have shared or commented on in the past.

The company is also to make it easier for people to remove photographs, posts and other activity they've engaged in on Facebook, to give them more control over what they have posted over the years.

"Some people want to delete things they've shared in the past, while others are just curious about the information Facebook has," said Ms Egan.

"This includes photos you've uploaded, contacts you've added to your account, posts on your timeline, and more. You can delete anything from your timeline or profile that you no longer want on Facebook."

The new features follow fierce criticism after whistleblower Christopher Wylie revealed Cambridge Analytica obtained profiles on 50 million Facebook users via an academic researcher's personality prediction app.

The app was downloaded by 270,000 people, but also scooped up their friends' data without consent - as was possible under Facebook's rules at the time.

Facebook's move comes as authorities around the globe investigate how Facebook handles and shares private data, and with its shares having tumbled more than 15pc, wiping out tens of billions in market value.

Earlier this week, Facebook was forced to deny reports that it had been logging people's call and SMS text history without their permission.

"This is not the case," a company spokesman said. "Call and text history logging is part of an opt-in feature for people using Messenger or Facebook Lite on Android. People have to expressly agree to use this feature."

The company is also facing mounting tax scrutiny from US authorities after a US judge said it must give up sensitive documents relating to Facebook's use of Ireland as a tax base.

The US Inland Revenue Service had said the social network was improperly withholding the documents, "which relate to decisions made by Facebook to establish an overseas headquarters in Dublin" as part of a tax strategy, according to a legal memo filed in the US last month.

Irish Independent

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