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Facebook Revamps Its Privacy Checkup Feature in Time for CES

Some tech giants are using this year’s CES conference in Las Vegas not to show off flashy gadgets but to promote protecting user privacy. Chief among them is Facebook, which is still working to regain user (and lawmaker) trust after a series of privacy scandals in recent years. The social network announced at the event Monday that it had overhauled its Privacy Checkup tool, which allows users to quickly tweak a range of data-sharing settings at once. The new interface rolls out to users globally starting today. It’s a great opportunity to check your Facebook privacy settings, especially if you haven’t done so recently.

When Privacy Checkup was first created in 2014, it focused on only three areas: who could see your posts, what kind of information was on your profile, and the third-party apps, such as mobile games, that had access to your Facebook data. The tool has now evolved to encompass eight different topics divided into four distinct areas. But it doesn’t cover many of the data collection abilities at the heart of Facebook’s past scandals. Unlike Google’s Privacy Checkup, the Facebook version is more about protecting your information from other people on Facebook, rather than limiting what the social network can collect about you in the first place or how it can use that data.

You can access Privacy Checkup by clicking the question mark icon on Facebook’s desktop site and selecting Privacy Checkup. The first section, Who Can See What You Share, is one of the most important. It’s the place to change whether sensitive information like your email address, phone number, birthday, hometown, or relationship status is visible to your Facebook friends, or even to the public internet, which it could be. You can also limit who can see your future posts, as well as update your block list.

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The other three sections, How to keep your account secure, How people can find you on Facebook, and Your data settings on Facebook, are all relatively short and will take less than one minute to review. They offer opportunities to update your password, adjust who can send you friend requests, and look at the third-party applications that have access to information from your Facebook profile. You may be surprised to find you gave a shopping site access to your data, for instance.

If you want to limit the data Facebook collects about you, Privacy Checkup is not the place to look—you’ll have to dig deeper. To Facebook’s credit, its wider Privacy Shortcuts menu—accessible from the same dropdown as Privacy Checkup—offers links to some of the settings you may be looking for. That includes Ad Preferences, the menu where you can stop Facebook from showing you ads based on your browsing history. To turn off the social network’s facial recognition features, go to Settings > Face Recognition.

One feature you won’t find, at least in the US, is Off-Facebook Activity. First announced last August, the tool allows users to see the websites that give your browsing information to Facebook, and to clear them. While the tool was rolled out to users in some countries last summer, it’s still slowly coming online for everyone globally. Facebook declined to say when it would be available to people in the US.

Facebook’s new Privacy Checkup doesn’t represent a major shift in how the company allows users to control their information. But revamping the feature at CES does allow Facebook to market itself as a privacy crusader, just as concerns over how businesses collect and use consumer data are reaching a fever pitch. While companies debut data-guzzling devices at this showcase and beyond, being seen as protecting user information and prioritizing transparency has become a selling point of its own. Facebook and Apple both sent senior privacy executives to CES this year, marking the first time a representative from the iPhone maker has made an official appearance at the conference in decades. They will both speak on a panel tomorrow titled “Chief Privacy Officer Roundtable: What Do Consumers Want?

Updated 1-8-2019, 10:50 am ET: This story has been updated to clarify that Off-Facebook Activity is slowly rolling out to users globally.

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