Facebook Rolls Out New Privacy & Data Controls As User Unrest Continues

Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images.
As Facebook continues to deal with the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica data incident, the company is taking its first official steps towards mending bridges with users. Over the next couple of weeks, the social media platform will begin rolling out more streamlined privacy controls and new tools aimed at making it easier to download and delete your data.
Chris Cox, Facebook's Chief Product Officer, told Refinery29 that the changes were in development prior to the past two weeks, during which the Cambridge Analytica story broke. "It‘s timely given the news over the past couple of weeks but this is a project we’ve been working on for awhile," Cox said.
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However, it wouldn't be surprising if today's announcement came ahead of schedule in response to growing unrest among users, a drop on the stock market, and a trending social hashtag, #DeleteFacebook.
The first main change is a reorganisation of the Settings menu on the Facebook app, which consolidates privacy information that was previously spread out over 20 screens onto one. In the image below, the phone on the left shows the current Settings menu, while the one on the right shows the new Settings menu that will roll out: It looks clearer, cleaner, and, overall, more user friendly. There is also a new Privacy Shortcuts menu that will be found under the Bookmarks section of the app, which makes it easier to set controls around the ads you see, your personal information, and your account's security.
Photo: Courtesy of Facebook.
However, the most useful new features — and the ones most relevant to the Cambridge Analytica incident — are the ones more directly related to data. A new "Access Your Information" page divides all of the information you've ever shared on Facebook into categories: You'll see everything from your "Groups" and "Photos and Videos" to "Likes and Reactions." Clicking on one of those categories will allow you to see the information you've shared and, if you so choose, delete it.
Photo: Courtesy of Facebook.
The second new feature is a major upgrade to Facebook's existing "download your data" page. Once a small footnote buried within user Settings, there is now an entire page devoted to downloading data. Compared to the old system, which required you to download everything you ever shared or posted simultaneously, you'll be able to choose what you want to download. If you only want your photos and videos, you can just select those. The same goes for your list of friends. You'll also be able to select specific date ranges for what you want to download.
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Photo: Courtesy of Facebook.
"This is the first of many announcements that will be coming that are about the fundamental issue here, which is helping people be in control of their information on Facebook," Cox told Refinery29.
The updated settings and any that are announced in coming months will fall in line with the message Mark Zuckerberg shared on his Facebook page last week: "We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can't then we don't deserve to serve you." A Facebook Newsroom post announcing today's updates also acknowledged the impact of Cambridge Analytica's misuse of user data, noting, "The last week showed how much more work we need to do to enforce our policies and to help people understand how Facebook works and the choices they have over their data."
Whether skeptical users are willing to give Facebook a second chance before downloading their data and signing off for good remains to be seen.
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