Amidst criticism sparked by the Cambridge Analytica scandal that was revealed roughly two weeks ago, Facebook announced a number of privacy changes it was making to ease concerns over how it handled its users’ personal information.
These changes will be the first since Facebook founder and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg last week publicly pledged to do better with its users’ data.
On Wednesday, March 28, Facebook announced that it would be rolling out in the coming weeks, a redesign of its privacy and security control tools to make finding and editing personal information on their platform easier.
“Last week showed how much more work we need to do to enforce our policies and help people understand how Facebook works and the choices they have over their data,” said Facebook chief privacy officer Erin Egan and deputy general counsel Ashlie Beringer in a statement.
“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,” they added.
While privacy control features were before located across 20 separate areas on the social media platform, the new changes will bring the already existing features all to one single place.
The changes will include a new Privacy Shortcuts menu that would provide a “clearer, more visual, and easy-to-find” experience, and an “Access Your Information” tool where users will be more easily able to delete anything from their profiles or timelines they no longer want on the platform.
“It’s also our responsibility to tell you how we collect and use your data in language that’s detailed, but also easy to understand,” the statement added.
The company said that in the next coming weeks, it would also be proposing updates to their terms of service that will include the company’s commitments to its users, and their data policy.
“These updates are about transparency — not about gaining new rights to collect, use, or share data,” it said.
The security redesign began last year, but was accelerated after the Cambridge Analytica scandal became known. The firm was found to have improperly harvested information of around 50 million Facebook users without permission, using the data for political ad targeting.
Facebook also said it would be shutting down their Partner Categories product, which enabled third-party data providers to offer their targeting directly on the platform.
“While this is common industry practice, we believe this step, winding down over the next six months, will help improve people’s privacy on Facebook,” the company said on Wednesday.
Facebook also announced that it would be temporarily preventing new apps from joining its platform. This, after it said last week that developers would be given limited access to user data.
The Menlo Park based social networking company has already seen a number of negative effects, including a loss of nearly $80 billion in its market value since the data scandal broke out on March 17.
Many users began abandoning the platform in a #DeleteFacebook movement. Companies like Sonos, Pep Boys, and SpaceX and Tesla — whose owner Elon Musk said the network gave him “the willies” — also called it quits.
In an interview last week with The New York Times, Zuckerberg acknowledged his company’s responsibility in protecting data and said, “Whenever there’s an issue where someone’s data gets passed to someone who the rules of the system shouldn’t have allowed it to, that’s rightfully a big issue and deserves to be a big uproar.”
Facebook has been under a lot of pressure both in the U.S. and in Europe where a new privacy law slated to take effect in May poses even more challenges for the company.
Zuckerberg has reportedly agreed to testify before at least one of three congressional committees probing the Cambridge Analytica controversy in the U.S., that being the House Energy and Commerce Committee next month.
Facebook’s chief product officer Chris Cox is expected to appear before U.K. lawmakers next month in regards to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
When speaking with CNN last week, Zuckerberg who initially seemed to be wary of speaking to congress, said he’d be happy to do so “if it’s the right thing to do.”
“What we try to do is send the person at Facebook who will have the most knowledge,” said Zuckerberg. “If that’s me, then I am happy to go.”
He also apologized for what happened and called the event a “major breach of trust.”
“We have a basic responsibility to protect people’s data,” he added.