How Facebook keeps making the same promises on data privacy

Javier Stokes
March 29, 2018

This feature can be used, Facebook says, to delete anything from your timeline or profile that you no longer want on the website.

Still firmly in damage limitation mode, Facebook has announced updates to how its bewildering settings menus are displayed and how the privacy of its two billion users can be tightened.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who publically apologized for his failures to protect user privacy, will reportedly testify before Congress next month to explain how the privacy breach occurred and what steps are being made to ensure it doesn't happen again. Facebook also will clarify what types of apps people are now using and what permissions those apps have to gather their information.

At this time, Facebook called themselves a "social utility" in one of their first press releases on privacy, announcing, "additional controls for News Feed and Mini-Feed in response to user feedback and to reaffirm its commitment to industry-leading privacy practices".

The mobile settings page prior to the redesign, at left, and after it, at right.

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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. A new Privacy Shortcuts section lets you "control your data in just a few taps, with clearer explanations of how our controls work", say Facebook chief privacy officer Erin Egan and the company's general counsel Ashlie Beringer in the post. Instead of spreading the settings across nearly 20 different pages, they are now all accessible from one screen.

Since 2006, Facebook has repeatedly promised to safeguard users' data through redesigns and by putting privacy controls front and center. Facebook added that only users who gave appropriate permission were affected, that it didn't collect the contents of messages or calls, and that users can opt out of the data collection and have the stored logs deleted by changing their app settings.

The US Federal Trade Commission this week said it had launched a probe into whether the social network violated consumer protection laws or a 2011 court-approved agreement on protecting private user data. "We are beginning work on this and will have more details as we finalize the program updates in the coming weeks". The site reportedly bases users' political motivations on their Facebook likes, the site will determine a users' political affiliations regardless of whether or not they have publicly stated their support for a particular political candidate.

"We're also making it easier to download the data you've shared with Facebook - it's your data, after all".

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