New EU laws force Facebook to put privacy into the hands of their users

Heather Parry

By Heather Parry

23 January 2018

Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg this week announced the social networking site will roll out a new set of tools aimed at allowing users to control their own privacy—in response to a new EU law that comes into force in May.

At a Facebook event in Brussels on Tuesday, Sandberg spoke about the company’s newest efforts to help users make informed choices as to the sharing of their own information:

We’re rolling out a new privacy centre globally that will put the core privacy settings for Facebook in one place and make it much easier for people to manage their data.

The move is in response to the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a new law that aims to give internet users more control over which companies use their data, and how.

Sandberg went on to say:

Our apps have long been focused on giving people transparency and control and this gives us a very good foundation to meet all the requirements of the GDPR and to spur us on to continue investing in products and in educational tools to protect privacy.

Sandberg also admitted that Facebook had not done enough to stop the abuse of its platform, with regards to hate speech and attacks on the democratic process. While the company has already stated its intention to double the number of people working on safety and security by the end of the year, bringing that particular team up to 20,000 staff members, Sandberg reiterated that promise.

Of course, there is a financial inventive for Facebook to make moves in this direction. Failure to comply with the GDPR brings a fine of 4 percent of a company’s annual global turnover, or 20 million Euros ($24.50 million), whichever is greater.

The EU has also threatened to legislate if companies do not tackle abuses of their platforms, meaning that today’s announcements make good business sense as well as good PR.

EU data protection authorities have already investigated Facebook several times for their use of user data and personal information, so it’s no surprise that the company is keen to avoid this.

Of course, any move that puts more privacy control into the hands of users is a good thing, and as much, privacy advocates will welcome today’s announcement.

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