Facebook begins privacy push ahead of tough new European law

Facebook will introduce a new privacy center this year that features all core privacy settings in one place, ahead of the introduction of a strict new EU data protection law that takes effect on May 25th. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will restrict how tech companies collect, store, and use personal data. Facebook also says that it’s publishing its privacy principles for the first time, detailing how the company handles user details.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer said in a speech last weekthat the new privacy center would give Facebook 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.”

The GDPR will enforce rules across the 28-member EU, including a rule that requires companies to report data breaches within 72 hours. Companies must also allow users to export their data and delete it. Under existing “right to be forgotten” provisions, people who don’t want certain data about them online can request companies to remove it. If companies breach the GDPR they would be subject to fines of up to 4 percent of their global annual revenue or €20 million ($24.8 million), whichever is the higher amount.


The new privacy center tool will be more comprehensive and unite key privacy settings rather than spreading them across multiple pages. Facebook currently promotes a more limited feature called Privacy Check-Up that gives you privacy controls over future posts, your profile’s About Me section, and app preferences.

As part of the privacy push, Facebook has also begun running short education videos in users’ New Feeds that teach users how to delete old posts, explain what happens to user information when an account is deleted, and show how to manage data used for Facebook ads. Facebook, which has 2 billion users, said it will show different videos on different privacy topics throughout the year.

“We recognize that people use Facebook to connect, but not everyone wants to share everything with everyone – including with us,” wrote Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy officer in a blog post. Facebook’s privacy principles outline how the company approaches privacy, like giving users control of the data they own, and helping them understand how it’s used and secured. Facebook notes that it’s accountable for maintaining privacy while also conceding that it’s a process of continuous improvement.

Facebook isn’t the only company that’s introducing new privacy tools and ramping up privacy measures. Google recently rolled out a privacy dashboard, helping users identify which Google products are storing their data. Microsoft, which has faced privacy concerns from the EU about its collection of data, has also unveiled a new data collection viewer tool.

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