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Facebook revamps privacy settings amid data breach outcry

By AFP - Mar 29,2018 - Last updated at Mar 29,2018

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appears on stage during a town hall at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, US, on September 27, 2015 (Reuters file photo)

WASHINGTON — Facebook on Wednesday unveiled new privacy settings aiming to give its users more control over how their data is shared, following an outcry over hijacking of personal information at the giant social network.

The updates include easier access to Facebook’s user settings and tools to easily search for, download and delete personal data stored by Facebook.

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.

“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,” 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 new features follow fierce criticism after it was revealed millions of Facebook users’ personal data was harvested by a British firm linked to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign — although Facebook said the changes have been “in the works for some time”.

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

The app was downloaded by 270,000 people, but also scooped up their friends’ data without consent — as was possible under Facebook’s rules at the time.

Egan and Beringer also announced updates to Facebook’s terms of service and data policy to improve transparency about how the site collects and uses data.

 

Deepening tech crisis

 

Facebook’s move comes as authorities around the globe investigate how Facebook handles and shares private data, and with its shares having tumbled more than 15 per cent, wiping out tens of billions in market value.

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

On Tuesday, tech shares led a broad slump on Wall Street, with an index of key tech stocks losing nearly 6 per cent.

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.

US lawmakers were seeking to haul Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to Washington to testify on the matter.

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

Facebook has apologised for the misappropriation of data and vowed to fix the problem.

Facebook took out full-page ads in nine major British and US newspapers on Sunday to apologise to users.

“We have a responsibility to protect your information. If we can’t we don’t deserve it,” Zuckerberg said in the ads.

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