In a damage control bid, Facebook overhauls privacy settings

RSTV Bureau

Zuckerberg

In a bid to quell the controversy over the data theft and breach of privacy, Facebook has unveiled a new privacy tools and settings to give users more control over how their information is shared. The new features follow fierce criticism of the social network giant after it was revealed that the personal data of tens of millions of users was harvested by a British firm linked to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

The company acknowledged that it needed to “do more to keep people informed,” but said the changes have been “in the works for some time.”

“We’ve heard loud and clear that privacy settings and other important tools are too hard to find,” chief privacy officer Erin Egan and deputy general counsel Ashlie Beringer said in a blog post.

“We’re taking additional steps in the coming weeks to put people more in control of their privacy.”

The updates include easier access to Facebook’s user settings and tools to easily search for, download and delete personal data stored on the site used by two billion people.

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 control advertisements they see.

The social network said it is also shutting down ‘Partner Categories,’ a feature which enables more precise targeting of ads by combining information from Facebook with data aggregated by outside companies such as Experian and Acxiom.

Earlier this month, whistleblower Christopher Wylie revealed political consulting company Cambridge Analytica had obtained profiles on 50 million Facebook users via an academic researcher’s personality prediction app.

The crisis also threatens the Silicon Valley tech industry whose business model revolves around data collected on internet users.

The US Federal Trade Commission this week said it had launched a probe into whether Facebook violated consumer protection laws or a 2011 court-approved agreement on protecting private user data.

US lawmakers are trying to haul Zuckerberg to Washington to testify on the matter.

Authorities in Britain have meanwhile seized data from Cambridge Analytica in their investigation, and EU officials have warned of consequences for Facebook.

(With inputs from Agencies)