Charges that the research firm Cambridge Analytica have misused the information of over 50 million Facebook users has been like oil to a flame in questioning the privacy of social media. How much information have social networks stored about you?

I am sure that everyone has heard of the Cambridge Analytica scandal where the Facebook profiles of 50 million people were acquired. There is no question that Facebook can build detailed and sophisticated profiles on their users. This can be based what we like, dislike and our general activity. As a huge Facebook user, myself, I find the scandal invasive and worrying. It makes me wonder what I can do to have greater privacy online.

The main questions are: what is the extent of the information shared and what can us Facebook users do to regain control of our information?

Professor Carol tells Tech Tent that with the European Union’s GDPR regulation coming into force on the 25th May 2018, the UK will experience more cases like the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

So, what does this mean in terms of GDPR in the UK?

There has been overwhelming support for the idea that the only solution is to get off Facebook. After the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook have overhauled its privacy tools. It is now easier for people to find and edit your personal information. Although this was for GDPR compliance, Facebook’s privacy officer has acknowledged that the privacy settings are still difficult to find. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) toughens the requirements of how organisations handle the public’s data. In turn, imposing harsher penalties for breach. So, what are Facebook doing?

Facebook’s changes fall into three categories:

  1. A Simplified Settings Menu
  2. A New Privacy Shortcuts Menu
  3. Revised Data Download and Edit Tools

Facebook insists that this will give greater visibility to privacy settings and delete data. But you will still need to do a lot of clicking before you can find out whether that quiz you filled in last week has told Facebook and your supermarket that you are pregnant.

As a quiz taker, myself, I would rather the quiz I did just this morning, not be shared.

What more should be done?

Social media corporation’s privacy rules are likely to change this summer. The introduction of GDPR aims to make it easier for users to take back control of their data.The threat of big fines for firms could make it more likely that corporations will share privacy information to consumers “in a clear and readable form”. GDPR laws suggest that firms should only keep consumer data “as long as necessary”. Yet, interpretation of this tends to be very flexible. In the case of Facebook, this may mean that if the person posting something does not delete it, it may remain online indefinitely. Is it time to panic?

One of the biggest changes from GDPR will be the right for people to be forgotten. GDPR promises easier wiping of social network or online history from the Internet. So, maybe it’s not time to panic just yet. Perhaps it is best to wait for GDPR implementation and understand privacy information before deleting all social media profiles. I will be checking all my privacy settings after the 25th May.

For more information about how to check your privacy settings on Facebook please click here.

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