Facebook reveals new privacy controls for users around the world

Facebook on three smartphones

Facebook has been hit with renewed criticism of its privacy policies in recent weeks in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Having promised to give users more control over their privacy settings -- and after already introducing some tools to this end -- the social network has now revealed how it will comply with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe and bring new "privacy protection" to users around the world.

With the impending arrival of GDPR, it had previously been thought that European Facebook users would have greater privacy controls than those in other parts of the world. But the company then revealed that GDPR-style privacy controls would actually be made available to everyone. Today, Facebook makes good on that promise, starting the rollout of new privacy settings in Europe and then around the globe.

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The social network says that "everyone -- no matter where they live -- will be asked to review important information about how Facebook uses data and make choices about their privacy on Facebook". People in Europe will feel the benefit first as these "choices" will be rolling out there first ahead of the May 25 GDPR deadline.

Following this, a "phased approach" means that "people in the rest of the world will be asked to make their choices on a slightly later schedule." Facebook says: "we'll present the information in the ways that make the most sense for other regions."

Facebook insists that it is GDPR that has triggered the implementation of new privacy options, saying:

As soon as GDPR was finalized, we realized it was an opportunity to invest even more heavily in privacy. We not only want to comply with the law, but also go beyond our obligations to build new and improved privacy experiences for everyone on Facebook. We've brought together hundreds of employees across product, engineering, legal, policy, design and research teams. We've also sought input from people outside Facebook with different perspectives on privacy, including people who use our services, regulators and government officials, privacy experts, and designers.

The company also explains what it will be asking its users to make choices about:

  • Ads based on data from partners. Ads on Facebook are more relevant when we use data from partners, like websites and apps that use business tools such as our Like button. We'll ask people to review information about this type of advertising, and to choose whether or not they want us to use data from partners to show them ads.
  • Information in their profile. If you've chosen to share political, religious, and relationship information on your profile, we'll ask you to choose whether to continue sharing and letting us use this information. As always, including this information on your profile is completely optional. We're making it easier for people to delete it if they no longer want to share it.
  • Allowing face recognition technology. Our face recognition features help protect your privacy and improve your experiences, like detecting when others might be attempting to use your image as their profile picture and allowing us to suggest friends you may want to tag in photos or videos. We've offered products using face recognition in most of the world for more than six years. As part of this update, we're now giving people in the EU and Canada the choice to turn on face recognition. Using face recognition is entirely optional for anyone on Facebook.

Despite pointing out that there will be a difference in presentation in different regions, Facebook says: "We want to be clear that there is nothing different about the controls and protections we offer around the world."

The changes will also see Facebook making new provisions for teenagers:

GDPR recognizes the importance of providing special protections and experiences for teens. We've built many special protections into Facebook for all teens, regardless of location. For example, advertising categories for teens are more limited, and their default audience options for posts do not include "public." We also keep face recognition off for anyone under age 18 and limit who can see or search specific information teens have shared, like hometown or birthday. Later this year we'll introduce a new global online resource center specifically for teens, and more education about their most common privacy questions.

Under GDPR, people between the ages of 13 and 15 in some EU countries need permission from a parent or guardian to allow some features on Facebook -- seeing ads based on data from partners and including religious and political views or "interested in" on your profile. These teens will see a less personalized version of Facebook with restricted sharing and less relevant ads until they get permission from a parent or guardian to use all aspects of Facebook. Even where the law doesn’t require this, we'll ask every teen if they want to see ads based on data from partners and whether they want to include personal information in their profiles.

As much as Facebook might hope otherwise, these changes are still unlikely to be enough to calm the storm that has built up about privacy.

Image credit: NatashaFedorova / depositphotos

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