Facebook is moving to untangle its often bewildering array of privacy options as the social network struggles to contain the damage from a widening scandal over user data.
With CEO Mark Zuckerberg poised to address the uproar on Capitol Hill, Facebook announced Wednesday that it is redesigning the settings menu on mobile devices, consolidating privacy options in one place, rather than sending users to some 20 different screens.
The move, which Facebook said was in the works even before the Cambridge Analytica scandal shook the company and its stock price, is unlikely to put to rest the broader issue of user privacy. Nonetheless, it underscores a key concern of both Facebook and its investors: how to keep people from deleting their accounts over what many see as a betrayal of customers’ trust.
The new Privacy Shortcuts menu, being rolled out in the coming weeks, will let people regulate the amount of personal information the social media giant keeps on them, like political preferences and interests, and delete things they’ve already shared. It will also let people manage the information the company uses to show ads.
Facebook has come under increasing pressure from Europe and the U.S. to address revelations that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, which worked with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, harvested data from about 50 million Facebook users as it built an election-consulting company that boasted it could sway voters in contests all over the world.
It has plunged Facebook into one of its worst crises of confidence in years. The stock has fallen 18 percent since the news was first revealed by the New York Times and The Observer of London earlier this month, wiping out almost $100 billion of market value. Facebook is no longer among the top five most valuable companies in the world and it delayed unveiling a new home speaker product to reevaluate how it uses data, according to people familiar with the matter. The stock dipped 0.2 percent early Wednesday to $151.94.
“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,” Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan and Deputy General Counsel Ashlie Beringer wrote in a statement Wednesday. Most of the security page updates have been in the works for some time, “but the events of the past several days underscore their importance.”
Zuckerberg last week apologized for the breach of trust and outlined concrete steps the company would take to better protect users. Facebook has produced multiple iterations to its privacy settings pages over the years, often in response to criticism that the system is too complicated for most people to understand what they are and aren’t sharing.
Under the revamp, users still won’t be able to delete data that they had given third-party apps on the platform previously, even if it was used for reasons other than what was agreed to. That data, generated over years of games and personality quizzes that had access to private information, is largely still stored outside of Facebook’s grasp by the private individuals and companies that built those applications.
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