After a lot of scandal and a great deal of confusion, Facebook has finally made clear what its privacy settings will look like in the wake of Europe’s forthcoming GDPR (the General Data Protection Regulation). In a news release, the company said that everyone, no matter where they live, will be asked to review information on the way Facebook uses their data. The options will roll out in Europe first, ahead of GDPR implementation on May 25.
On the face of it, the options seem comprehensive enough. Facebook will ask you to make choices about adverts, sensitive information and face recognition technology, and claims that it’s developed better tools to access, delete and download information. It also says it’s making tweaks for younger users, since GDPR demands stricter privacy controls for teenagers.
But there are a number of issues with the way Facebook has presented these choices. The text-heavy consent screens give you two options: ‘accept and continue’, which is accessed by a big blue button, or ‘manage settings’, accessed via a smaller gray box. And before you can start tweaking your settings, you’ll be presented with a spiel where Facebook tries to dissuade you from removing your information. It’s a tedious process, designed no doubt to encourage the user to whizz through clicking ‘accept’ to all.
Targeted advertising is still non-negotiable, although the settings give the illusion of personal control by asking what types of advertising you want to receive. Advertisers aren’t allowed to target you based on sensitive info, such as sexual identity, religion or political views, which is obviously a good thing. However, in the US, advertisers can tap into your political views via political pages and events you interact with. You can opt out of this, but doing so means removing all the information you’ve shared in these categories. There’s no way to keep it on your page without letting Facebook use it.
Finally, Facebook’s new terms of service have been updated so they’re easier to read. No significant changes were made, but like the privacy consent flow, its interface isn’t great either. You can either accept the terms via the big ‘I Accept’ button, or look at your alternatives via a tiny ‘see your options’ hyperlink, which takes you to a page brandishing a very final ‘delete my account’ option.
These settings are the bare minimum Facebook could have conjured. Given the furore around its privacy agenda in recent times, many assumed they’d do more in a bid to get the whole world back onside. Sure, many of the consent options give users the illusion of control, but as the interface suggests, it’s clear Facebook still holds the reins when it comes to your personal data.