Facebook Implementing Changes To Help Users Manage Their Privacy

Aaron Brown
April 10, 2018

Zuckerberg's testimony has already been released ahead of Wednesday's appearance. Rep. Anna Eshoo, the Silicon Valley congresswoman, didn't mince words in an interview with this news organization last week, in which she said she hopes to tie in the privacy questions over Cambridge Analytica - the political data consulting firm that obtained personal information of up to 87 million Facebook users without their permission - with the lingering issues about how Facebook's platform was used by Russian trolls to try to influence the USA presidential election. "We didn't take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake", Zuckerberg plans to say.

It took Facebook until September 2017, 10 months after the election, to go public with its first findings on the Russian meddling, which it says appeared in the news feeds of 126 million customers - equal to almost half the adult population of the United States. Facebook failed us. Not only did they fail to safeguard the personal information of millions of users, they concealed it from us - and this is not the first time the company mishandled user information.

Last month, it was disclosed that the group obtained data on millions of Facebook users without their knowledge.

The company has said that as many as 146 million people may have received information from a Russian agency that's accused of orchestrating much of the cyber meddling in the election. The notification informs users which apps they use and what kind of information they shared with those apps.

What took Facebook so long to talk about the Cambridge Analytica data leak?

The message on the left indicates you have not been affected, while the message on the right says your data was caught up in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Instagram and WhatsApp, two social media platforms also owned by Facebook, are also sometimes used by traffickers.

The testimony to the Congress lawmakers is hence supposed to repose confidence in Facebook as well as fix Zuckerberg's personal reputation as he is the face of Facebook. Facebook was bound by that order to provide users with clear information about their privacy settings, to prevent sharing of their data beyond what they agreed to permit, and also to proactively look for threats to data privacy and find ways to remedy them.

CONTEXT: Zuckerberg controls 59.7 percent of the voting stock in Facebook.

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Zuckerberg and Sandberg both admitted last week that there would be future privacy headaches for Facebook and its users. At a minimum, it will have achieved something if it gets Facebook to give up the saccharine one-world rhetoric about its mission and admit the bottom line is as important to it as any other profit-making company.

The proximate cause is the Cambridge Analytica controversy.

After receiving Facebook's response on Thursday, the government waited for London-based analytics firm CA's response to take a decision on the matter. In an interview aired Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press, Wylie said the true number could be even larger than 87 million.

Zuckerberg is pledging to limit the access of app developers to users' data, including religious and political views; to reduce information that users give to apps; to more aggressively detect and remove fake accounts; and to add 5,000 more staffers who work on security and content review. Facebook says that this researcher then broke its rules by handing over this data to Cambridge Analytica.

Although Facebook's proactive move to show users whether or not their data was stolen is useful, it seems like just the tip of the iceberg.

Some who favor stricter regulations want Facebook users to be treated like the advertising products that they are and to be paid for what they contribute to the social network.

Bernadette Tansey is Xconomy's San Francisco Editor.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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