- Charles McQuillan/Getty
- Facebook is about to ask whether you really want to share highly sensitive details about your life, such as religion, political leanings, or sexual orientation.
- Most people will have filled in these details when they first joined Facebook and then forgotten about them.
- Under the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation, it is illegal to collect that kind of sensitive information unless people give explicit permission.
- People will have to make up their minds on the trade-off between their privacy and useful but invasive features like facial recognition.
Do you really want to tell Facebook about your sexual preferences?
Many people will have filled out an innocuous section on their Facebook profile page when they first joined the service and forgotten about it. That section simply reads: “Add who you’re interested in” and asks users to state whether they prefer men, women, or both. You might, of course, have chosen to keep this information to yourself.
- Facebook/Business Insider
When Facebook first started out, this looked harmless enough. The social network was initially limited to university students after all – and it was a good way of advertising whether you were single or not and who you might be interested in.
But after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which resulted in millions of Facebook profiles being scraped and that data possibly being used for political advertising, this kind of information is much more sensitive.
Under new European rules coming into force on May 25, called General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Facebook must ask its users whether they want to keep sharing this kind of highly sensitive information. That includes not only your sexual preferences, but also your political views, and religion, all of which Facebook prompts you to share.
Facebook will show users a pop-up explaining that this sensitive information is protected under European laws, and it will ask for your explicit consent to hold that data. You’ll be given the option to keep it on the service or delete it.
The company outlined all the GDPR changes it will make in a blog post on Tuesday.
Facebook will also ask if you want to use facial recognition to make photo-tagging easier
If you use Facebook in Europe, you probably won’t be aware that the company uses facial recognition to make suggestions about who to tag in photos. That tech hasn’t been available inside the EU since 2012, because it’s considered a violation of privacy.
But now Facebook wants to bring it back and has started asking some European users whether they want to opt-in. For anyone who cares about privacy, the major downside is that Facebook will scan your face in order to recognise your photos, which critics say feels like a form of surveillance. The upside is that your photos will be tagged that much faster. But you will have to decide if the trade-off is really worth it.
And Facebook will make it easier to understand targeted advertising
When you see ads on Facebook, the social network uses all kinds of information to make those ads “relevant” to you. That doesn’t just mean using the data you proactively hand over.
Those “like” and “share” buttons that are embedded on many external websites can track you, as can an advertising tool called Facebook Pixel. Many websites – including Business Insider – use these tools so they can reach you more effectively on Facebook.
Facebook hasn’t precisely explained how, but it will also ask you to look at whether you’re happy sharing that kind of data.
The company wrote: “Ads on Facebook are more relevant when we use data from partners, like websites and apps that use business tools such as our Like button. We’ll ask people to review information about this type of advertising, and to choose whether or not they want us to use data from partners to show them ads.”
Quitting Facebook and taking your data with you should become easier
Facebook hasn’t gone into too much detail, but it plans to make it easier for people to view, delete, and download their data. Another important change under GDPR is that people should be able to quit one service, take their information with them, then upload it to a competing service.
According to TechCrunch, Facebook will let you download your data in different formats. But it isn’t clear how Facebook will let you then take that information to another app.
Facebook will initially roll out these changes to EU users from this week, then across the rest of the world. According to the company, some “specific details” about its data policy will only be visible to EU users thanks to GDPR.