Social media data protection draws widespread attention
By Yang Hongyan
People's Daily app


Washington (People's Daily) - Facebook rolled out new tools Wednesday to make it easier for users to see and access data, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal in which 50 million profiles were gleaned through a quiz app for political purposes. 

The tech giant has added a privacy shortcuts menu for mobile devices that gives users more direct control over their data and can add an extra layer of security. Facebook said in the coming weeks it will propose updates to its terms of service and update data policy to "better spell out what data we collect and how we use it".

According to Statista, a US based statistics portal, Facebook was the first social networking company to surpass one billion registered accounts as of January 2018 and currently sits at 2.2 billion monthly active users. Amid public concerns over its data scandal, there is a renewed focus on whether frequently used social media sites can protect users' privacy as they promise considering that data are their source of revenue. 

In 2014, a survey by US nonpartisan fact tank Pew Research Center found that 91 percent of Americans "agree" or "strongly agree" that people have lost control over how personal information is collected and used by all kinds of entities. Another Pew survey done in 2016 showed that only nine percent of social media users were "very confident" that social media companies would protect their data. 

Under increasing pressure from the public and lawmakers, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg Tuesday decided to testify before Congress within weeks to explain the company's data breach. CNN said US Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley also officially invited Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to the hearing on data privacy next month.

While the US frets over the scandal and subsequent stock market crash, the European Union (EU) seems to be tougher on data privacy management. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), guidelines the EU adopted in April 2016 after four years of preparation and debate, is set to come into force in May 2018, when organizations at fault may be fined.

Based on current EU data protection rules, GDPR is the most important change in data privacy regulation in 20 years, according to its official website. The Regulation will apply to all companies processing the personal details of data subjects residing in the Union, regardless of the company's location. Organizations in breach of GDPR can be fined up to 4 percent of annual global turnover or €20 Million (whichever is higher), the maximum fine for the most serious  violation.

Facebook said the new tools will help it adhere to the GDPR. Advertisers can continue to use Facebook platforms and solutions in the same way they do today, but they are responsible for ensuring compliance with the GDPR, just as they are responsible for compliance with the laws that apply to them today, it explained.

Statistics show over 80 countries and independent territories have now adopted comprehensive data protection laws. Analysts suggest the GDPR might give worldwide consumers more protection against what data tech firms can collect, how it will be used, and how they can check what has been done with the information. Additionally, more cooperation and communication is needed to find better solutions when dealing with data breach in a data-driven age.

In addition, Apple chief Tim Cook and IBM chief Virginia Rometty both called for more data oversight after Facebook breach, at China Development Forum in Beijing over the last weekend.