Facebook to Roll Out 'Similar' EU Privacy Options to All Users

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Facebook announced today that it will be sending all users a News Feed alert asking them to review their data and privacy options. 

The alert, says Facebook, is "similar" to the one received by users in the European Union (EU), as required by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force this Friday.

But now, Facebook users worldwide will receive an alert in their News Feeds -- an "interruption," as Facebook lightly calls it -- asking them to review privacy and data controls pertaining to ads, facial recognition, and what they've shared on their profiles.

There's a key difference between the alert for EU users and those located elsewhere, however: For non-EU users, reviewing these settings is optional.

As for these looming alerts, Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan says users will receive "a customized message that puts [such] information in front of them," such as how the company uses "data from partners" to create more personalized ads.

The message will also remind users what kind of political, religious, and relationship information they've elected to share on their profiles. Additionally, it will offer information on how Facebook uses face recognition -- which the company claims is sometimes used to enhance privacy.

During a session with members of European Parliament (MEPs) earlier this week, Mark Zuckerberg was challenged to answer questions about Facebook's GDPR compliance -- and whether it would extend the same data privacy protections to non-EU users.

Zuckerberg has previously given mixed responses to the question of implementing GDPR-like protections on a global scale during interviews and during his U.S. congressional testimony in April. His responses ranged from agreeing with it "in spirit" to subsequently remarking, "if we are planning on running the controls for GDPR across the world ... my answer [is] yes."

This latest development is seemingly part of the recent campaign Facebook has undertaken -- since March revelations that personal user data was improperly obtained and misused by voter profiling firm Cambridge Analytica -- to convince users that it's putting them back in control of their own data, and that Facebook takes their privacy seriously.

In April, for instance, the company announced it would be updating its terms of service and data policy to make it easier to understand, which Egan says will also be included in these alerts displayed to users.

"Reading through the fine print in the video, there are actually very surprises in there," says Henry Franco, HubSpot's social media editor. "But this update isn’t going to change the opinion of anyone who’s already made up his or her mind" -- like those who have opted to delete or leave Facebook altogether, for instance.

"I think Facebook’s doing a great thing by trying to be more transparent," he continues. "But the number one priority for the company is clearly to show lawmakers it's capable of self-regulating."