Facebook is streamlining its core privacy settings as part of a move to provide its users with more control over their data ahead of an upcoming European Union regulation that aims to expand how European users manage their data and restrict the way Internet companies use their personal information. The General Data Protection Regulation is set for implementation in May, and Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said the social network is poised to fulfill its requirements as the site already gives its more than 2 billion users control over their information and transparency over how their data are used.
The upcoming regulation is expected to have a serious impact on companies in the financial and technology sectors that collect large amounts of customer data. There are consequences as well if companies dare violate the rule such as a maximum penalty of 4 percent of the global annual turnover or 20 million euros, depending on which of the two is bigger. Facebook's way of handling user data usually leaves the social media titan facing regulatory investigations, at least in Europe. In May last year, French and Dutch privacy watchdogs slapped the social networking site with huge fines over how it amassed user data through third-party sites without the users' consent. Further to that, affected users and non-users alike were not provided with sufficient control over how Facebook used their personal information.
A month before that, Germany's Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information forbade Facebook and WhatsApp from mass-sharing user data in the country without obtaining express consent from their customers. That decision was in response to the changes in both companies' terms of service announced in 2016, which allowed Facebook and its subsidiary to share user data between one another. Privacy watchdogs and the general public across Europe met the change with criticism as neither Facebook or the company it acquired in 2014 obtained permission from its users to alter its Terms of Service that way. In France, WhatsApp was fined for sharing a significant volume of information about its users with its parent company, though the country's data protection agency gave WhatsApp a month to comply with its order and halt its user data sharing practice with Facebook.