Facebook unveils simplified privacy settings ahead of GDPR

29 Jan 2018

Facebook app. Image: Jakraphong Photography/Shutterstock

Facebook has published its privacy principles for the first time in an effort to give users more control over their information.

With GDPR just a few short months away, the spotlight is on all organisations that deal with data as the regulation deadline creeps forward.

A particular level of scrutiny is being placed on the larger tech companies that process and store reams of data about millions of people around the world as well as the EU.

Facebook launches privacy campaign

Being one of these major firms, Facebook is officially launching a new series of educational videos in an effort to demystify the process and give users more agency over their privacy.

Privacy was high on the agenda at a recent Facebook event in Brussels, where COO Sheryl Sandberg first announced the privacy education initiative.

Today (29 January), the company took the major step of publishing its privacy principles, giving the average user an insight into how their information is handled. These rules differ to the privacy policy users are supplied with prior to signing up.

Chief privacy officer Erin Egan made the announcement in a newsroom post on 28 January, linking the news with Data Privacy Day. She wrote that the company is “introducing a new education campaign to help you understand how data is used on Facebook and how you can manage your own data”.

She said: “We recognise that people use Facebook to connect, but not everyone wants to share everything with everyone – including with us. It’s important that you have choices when it comes to how your data is used.”

What are the privacy principles?

The privacy principles include building privacy into all Facebook products, being held accountable to regulators, users owning the information they share and consistent information security, among others.

Facebook will also make core privacy settings easier to locate. A new privacy centre will be established this year, featuring all the settings in a single place, and the company says it is being designed based on feedback from users, privacy experts and policymakers.

A series of events ahead of GDPR

Facebook will also be hosting a series of data protection workshops for small and medium-sized businesses focusing on GDPR and will continue to host Design Jams to help designers and other professionals bake data protection into their products.

Users will be encouraged as of today (29 January) to take a privacy check-up of their profile, to examine what exactly they are sharing and who exactly can view it. The new videos will appear in the Facebook news feed in the near future.

Commenting on the new privacy measures, Julian Saunders, CEO and founder of data management and GDPR compliance company PORT.im, said: “Facebook’s announcement regarding privacy and transparency tells you one thing – they are taking GDPR very seriously.

“It should be a wake up call to every business that has studiously ignored GDPR for the past two years.”

Updated at 11.12am, 29 January 2018: This post has been updated to include additional comment from PORT.im.

Facebook app. Image: Jakraphong Photography/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects