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Facebook announced what it described as a reform in its privacy policies to make it easier for users to find and edit personal information maintained by the social network.
The changes were announced in a blog of the company and arise after the strong criticism received by the social network after it became known that the data of some 50 million users had been filtered to the Cambridge Analytica consultancy.
Facebook, however, ensures that the reform was already planned before the scandal to comply with new regulations of the European Union.
The announcement coincides with a new dispute with the agency in charge of privacy in New Zealand, which accused Facebook of violating local regulations.
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At the beginning of the blog post, the Facebook privacy chief acknowledges the damages that the Cambridge Analytica revelations have caused to the company.
“Last week showed that we still have to do a lot more work to implement our policies, and to help people understand how Facebook works and the alternatives they have with their data,” writes Erin Egan.
“We hear loud and clear that it is very difficult to find privacy settings and other important tools, and we must do more to keep people informed,” he adds.
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- Cambridge Analytica: Mark Zuckerberg recognizes that Facebook made mistakes amid the worst scandal the social network has faced
The announced changes are classified into three general categories:
- a “simplified” menu of settings : currently mobile users have a list of about 17 different options, each of which is marked with a short title. The new version regroups the controls and adds descriptions to make it clearer what each one involves.
- a new menu of privacy shortcuts :the new menu brings together in one place what the firm believes are the most important controls in a way that makes it easier for people to carry out functions such as reviewing what they have shared and, if you want, deleting it, limiting the information that Facebook uses to show you ads.
- tools to find, download and edit your data : a new page called “Access your information” will allow the user to review all their past interactions – including “likes” and published comments – with the option to delete; In addition, members can download specific categories of data-including their photos-by selecting a specific period, instead of having to export a single huge file that could take hours to obtain.
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Although not mentioned in the blog, the BBC understands that the company tries to make the link to completely delete the account is more prominent.
The measure comes before the General Regulations on Data Protection of the European Union come into force on May 25 .
The new legislation reinforces the requirements for the management of public data in organizations, and also imposes more severe sanctions for those who violate them.
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Rory Cellan-Jones, technology correspondent, BBC
Facebook insists that this measure – which gives greater visibility to the user’s privacy settings and facilitates the way to delete information – was planned for months, but the company now knows how urgent it is.
“Facebook recognizes that it has clearly lost the trust of the people and needs to work to recover it,” his global vice president of privacy, Stephen Deadman, told me.
Now this seems like a useful update for what many users say is a very confusing system. For example, trying to find how to prevent your phone from publishing your contacts on Facebook will take a long and complex job.
But you’ll still need to keep doing a lot of clicks before you can find out if that questionnaire you filled out last week told Facebook and your supermarket that you were pregnant.
The question is whether the social network should be more proactive to warn people about the data they are sharing, perhaps sending an alert to people who almost certainly do not realize they are posting their phone contacts on Facebook.
“You are in control of privacy and security on Facebook”, is the new message. But perhaps more will have to be done for many busy users to take the time to regain that control.
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Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke out, Facebook’s privacy policies have been under intense scrutiny.
The New Zealand privacy commissioner is the last to express criticism, accusing the firm of violating the law by refusing to submit data on a dispute that affects one of its citizens.
The man involved wanted access to the information that others had about him.
“The social network indicated that the Privacy Act did not apply in his case and did not have to comply with the commissioner’s request to review the information that the plaintiff had requested,” the agency said in a statement.
Facebook responded: “We are disappointed that the New Zealand privacy commissioner asked us to give access to a year of private data that belonged to several people and then criticized us for protecting their privacy.”