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Facebook's new privacy settings are missing a key feature

Ethan Wolff-Mann
Senior Writer

Facebook unveiled a new privacy tool system Wednesday, in response to growing concerns over the company’s misuse of users’ data.

We’ve heard loud and clear that privacy settings and other important tools are too hard to find and that we must do more to keep people informed,” wrote Erin Egan, VP and chief privacy officer, policy, and Ashlie Beringer, VP and deputy general counsel wrote in a release. “We’re taking additional steps in the coming weeks to put people more in control of their privacy.”

But the real question many disillusioned users have: Will Facebook’s new policy offer an option to delete chunks of data and content, giving a user another option besides deleting their account entirely?

A Facebook spokesperson told Yahoo Finance it will not.

Permanence may have once been a nice feature on Facebook. But the fact that old direct messages, searches, and dossiers of advertising data from years ago is kept has turned into somewhat of a bug for some users, who may not want their old posts and messages to be seen anymore — or even exist.

FILE PHOTO: A figurine is seen in front of the Facebook logo in this illustration taken, March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Facebook has understood the importance of this for years, and has allowed users to limit older content. Besides the ability to adjust privacy settings, Facebook has had a “limit old posts” button for years that suppresses this old content, cleansing an account of the callow youth that could potentially be embarrassing.

But if this refresh on security and privacy settings were to be truly successful, Facebook would likely have to permit its users to have an option in between staying on and letting the data exist and going with the scorched-earth solution of a full deletion, with its data wipe that comes a few months after an account is terminated. (De-activation does not do this.)

In lieu of this more drastic measure, Facebook has redesigned its settings menus on mobile, moving over a dozen pages to one single page.

This undated product image provided by Facebook shows a redesign of Facebook’s privacy tools. Facebook announced the redesign on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. The changes won’t affect Facebook’s privacy policies or the types of data it gathers on users. But the company hopes its 2.2 billion users will have an easier time navigating its complex and often confusing privacy and security settings. (Facebook via AP)

The company also added a new privacy shortcuts menu, where someone can add layers of protection like two-factor authentication — you should do this, since it’s easy to export a person’s data if you had the password — the ability to review and control what you’ve shared, and have a say over the ads you see.

As to exactly when these changes will occur, a Facebook spokesperson did not specify anything more than that they’d be “rolling out in the coming weeks.”

Until this tool is released, the only way to control activity is through the “activity log,” another Facebook spokesperson told Yahoo Finance.

Facebook will also be updating its terms of service and privacy policy, though not to add new uses for people’s data but rather to clarify and make transparent the current policies.

Ethan Wolff-Mann is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann. Confidential tip line: FinanceTips[at]oath[.com].

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