Facebook announces new privacy settings ahead of EU data law

Facebook announces new privacy settings ahead of EU data law
© Getty

Facebook announced new privacy changes on Tuesday as it prepares for a sweeping new European data law, but the company says it will stick with the targeted advertising system that’s come under fire in recent weeks.

The new features are mostly intended to enhance transparency around existing privacy settings, as the internet giant prepares for the EU's new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which goes into effect next month.

The platform will soon begin reminding users that they're able to opt out of some features, like letting Facebook use data from certain websites they visit, the company announced Tuesday in a blog post. Facebook’s facial recognition technology will also be optional for users.

But the company told reporters at its Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters that it will not let users opt out of having their data collected for targeted advertisements.

“People can choose to not be on Facebook if they want,” said Rob Sherman, Facebook’s deputy chief privacy officer, according to Reuters.

A new European Union privacy law going into effect on May 25 will require internet platforms to be more transparent about what they do with users’ data and to offer more control over what companies can do with that data.

Facebook is promising to roll out all new privacy controls to users worldwide, even though the law only applies to European countries. But privacy advocates who have stepped up their criticism of Facebook’s ad-targeting model are likely to be disappointed by the changes that its announced so far.

The renewed scrutiny of Facebook’s data practices comes after the platform admitted that Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics contractor that worked for President TrumpDonald TrumpDemocrats, activists blast reported Trump DOJ effort to get journalists' phone records Arizona secretary of state gets security detail over death threats surrounding election audit Trump admin got phone records of WaPo reporters covering Russia probe: report MORE's 2016 campaign, improperly obtained information on 87 million users.

"Beyond today’s announcements, we’ll keep improving," Facebook said in its blog post. "We’re committed to making sure people understand how we use their information and how they can control it."

The announced changes come just one week after Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Broadband companies funded fake net neutrality comments, investigation finds | Twitter rolls out tip feature | Google to adopt 'hybrid work week' Oversight Board achieving what government cannot Warren: Trump is 'a danger to democracy' MORE faced two days of grilling in hearings on Capitol Hill.

During one hearing, Zuckerberg said the social media giant needs to use targeted advertising to remain free for users.

"We think offering an ad-supported service is the most aligned with our mission of trying to help connect everyone in the world, because we want to offer a free service that everyone can afford," Zuckerberg said. "That’s the only way we can reach billions of people."