Facebook must be clearer on data use says company's UK chief

Steve Hatch said Facebook needed to get its users to trust them

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg makes the keynote speech at F8, theFacebook's developer conference, Tuesday, May 1, 2018, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

A senior Facebook executive has conceded user need to be granted greater clarity over how to control the exploitation of their data.

At a Q&A at their UK headquarters, Facebook senior management faced a smattering of questions from users confused over the use of their data on the site.

“We're hearing loud and clear that we could do a much better job of helping to inform people in a really clear and simple way," Steve Hatch, Facebook’s UK chief representative said.

“I understand where the questions are coming from. It feels like a question of trust – can we really trust Facebook with our information? It’s on us to make sure we can be clear about this,” he added.

"People want more and more control. A number of you will ask us for more and more control, so we build more and more controls. And then they feel it's got more complicated. Then we simplify it again and they say I haven't got enough control,” said Richard Allan, the head of Facebook’s UK policy.

The pair were speaking on British public radio as part of Facebook’s efforts to be more transparent and have direct contact with users worried about privacy, data and control.

Mr Allan said data was “an integral part of the service” and said users could access a tool that would show the information Facebook held on them

“The core data such as photos, statuses and updates – you own it, your data is yours. We will, however, show you if we have put you in an advertising category,” he added.

“It’s on us to make sure that data is protected, it’s also on us that we can be clear on how that data is used and how that information is used. People want to know how much control we have on a basic level,” said Mr Hatch.

"For example, at the top of every single ad in Facebook there's three little dots and if you click on that, you'll be able to see why you're seeing that ad," he said.

"It's about bringing in those little nudges, those little ways of being able to help you to be better informed,” Mr Hatch added.

He also said Facebook was building a tool, currently only available in the US, that showed users political advertisements currently being run, who was being targeted and how much was being spent on the campaigns.


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The Facebook executives also said they had worked hard to make sure third-party companies could not abuse the platform again. In March 2018, it was reported that the consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had accessed and user personal data about Facebook users from an external researcher.

“(Facebook CEO) Mark (Zuckerberg) has got the whole company to focus on it. A huge amount of work has been done since the story came out. Absolutely determined not to let this happen again. It shouldn’t have happened,” said Mr Allan.