Facebook sets up a privacy design lab in Ireland

Data privacy is one of the biggest challenges Facebook is facing this year, and it needs to take action quickly.
12 June 2018

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is keen on tackling GDPR effectively, to the company’s advantage. Source. AFP

Lately, Facebook has been in the news quite often.

The social media giant has access to a lot of data about customers, and is, in phases, owning up to mistakes it’s made with regards to protecting that data.

However, those lapses should stop soon. The company has informed the U.S. Senate that it has launched a design lab that will work to improve the way people get informed about sharing their personal data.

This is an important step for the company, especially in light of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) issued by the European Union which demands that users get more control of their data.

The initiative, Bloomberg reported, is called TTC Labs, and was started “in recognition of the need for improved approaches to data transparency across all digital services.”

TTC Labs, which stands for trust, transparency, and control, is based in Dublin. It’s essentially a design innovation lab that seeks to improve user experiences around personal data.

“TTC Labs is an open platform for sharing and innovation and contains insights from leading experts in academia, design, and law, in addition to prototype designs from the design jams, template services and open-source toolkits for people-centric design for transparency, trust and control of data,” according to an official document from Facebook.

Facebook hopes that TTC Labs will be able to effectively collaborate with stakeholders and employ open-source approaches to create “people-centric best practices for people to understand how their data is used by digital services, in ways that they find easy to understand and control”.

Skeletons in the closet

Earlier this month, the company announced that about 14 million users were affected by a privacy bug that made their posts visible to the public even if they had chosen to keep them private.

Affecting users between May 18 to 27, the company believes the lapse was a “technical” error. Users, in light of the GDPR, were informed quite early on.

In the same week, the company also disclosed that it had been sharing user data with Chinese companies such as Huawei, Lenovo, Oppo, and TCL. Of these, Huawei is considered a threat to national security by American intelligence officials.

The company clearly has a lot of challenges coming up – and in a new, more transparent digital world, must answer for its lapses.

It’s time to buck up

When the company announced it’s financial results for 2017 at the end of January, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “2017 was a strong year for Facebook.” The company’s total revenues stood at about US$40.65 billion while its net income stood at US$15.93 billion.

Under the provisions of the GDPR, in the case of a violation, the company might be penalized to the tune of US$1.63 billion since EU rules have set the maximum penalty to 4 percent of worldwide revenues.

Compared to the company’s net income in 2017, it’s quite a big sum. Just north of 10 percent of its net income, is payable in fines to the EU.

The GDPR sure has set the stakes high, and given the fact that new cyberlaws are on the anvil in other key markets, it’s time Facebook take data and privacy seriously.

In January, COO Sheryl Sandberg said that the company was keen on adding 10,000 safety and security personnel to its team, in order to support its growing needs.