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Facebook says it will give users more control over their privacy

Users will soon be able to change how their information is used on the platform

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Photo (c) alexsl - Getty Images
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg celebrated Data Privacy Day on Tuesday by recommitting to giving its users more control over their privacy. 

In laying out his 2020 vision, Zuckerberg kept Facebook’s resolutions simple: help users take advantage of its Privacy Check-Up tool; make its Off-Facebook Activity tool more readily available; and help users keep track of their activity. The company aims to do that by making better use of Login Notifications, a new service aimed at delivering users even more control over their information. 

“One of our main goals for the next decade is to build much stronger privacy protections for everyone on Facebook,” Zuckerberg wrote in a post. “We know we have a lot of work to do here, which is why this is such a priority for our teams and for me personally.”

The specifics

Facebook’s three-tiered focus plays out like this for its users:

Privacy check-up tool

The privacy check-up tool was designed to give Facebook’ers control over exactly who can see posts and profile information. It also beefs up account security via login alerts and provides a clearer picture of what personal information a user gives to apps that they may be using on Facebook (Angry Birds, Words with Friends, Flixster, et al).

Off-Facebook activity

One of the more pressing problems for anyone who’s online these days is figuring out how their data is used when it comes to advertising. Facebook’s Erin Egan, Chief Privacy Officer of Policy, and David Baser, Director of Product Management, says the platform is handing the keys to ad tracking back to the user.

“Imagine a clothing website wants to show ads to people who are interested in a new style of shoes,” Egan and Baser explained. “They can send information to Facebook saying someone on a particular device looked at those shoes. If that device information matches someone’s Facebook account, we can show ads about those shoes to that person.”

With Off-Facebook Activity’s power in the user’s hands, they can:

  • See a summary of the personal information other apps and websites have sent Facebook through its online business tools, like Facebook Pixel or Facebook Login;

  • Disconnect this information from their account; and

  • Choose to disconnect future off-Facebook activity from their account -- which can include all of their off-Facebook activity or just for specific apps and websites.

Log-in notifications

Inside every Facebook account is something called Facebook Login, which lets the user sign in to other apps and services using their own Facebook account. The bugaboo with the tool is that, until now, there hasn’t been an easy way for users to keep track of it. 

“To help you keep track of your activity, we rolled out Login Notifications,” Zuckerberg wrote. “You should be able to easily understand and manage your information, which is why strengthening your privacy controls is so important. These notifications alert you when you use Facebook Login to sign in to third-party apps to help you stay aware of how your account is being used and edit your settings.”

At the end of the day…

Zuckerberg says users should be able to easily understand and control their own information on Facebook, and a large part of that is making sure there is easy access to privacy controls.

“We’ll have more to share as we continue to make progress on this important work in the decade ahead,” the executive said.

Facebook users can expect to see these changes unfold over the next few weeks. Zuckerberg said that the current plan is to show users a prompt encouraging them to review their privacy settings. 

“The prompt will show up in your News Feed and direct you to the Privacy Checkup tool, which we recently updated. This makes it even easier to adjust who can see your posts and profile information, strengthen your account security by turning on login alerts, and review the information you share with apps you’ve logged in to with Facebook,” he noted.

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