Facebook’s Online Privacy Policy Explained By Internet Lawyer

Facebook online privacy policyWelp, it’s official. Mark Zuckerberg is a bona fide billionaire and a few more Facebook millionaires were most likely made. Woot for them. But while everybody else debates the arguably inflated IPO, let’s take time to dissect Facebook’s online privacy policy that launched just last week.

That’s right. It was Facebook’s turn to roll out a shiny new online privacy policy. After all, their arch Internet rival, Google, did it a few months ago. And like Google, Facebook insists their policy changes are only meant to “clarify existing language.” They’ve also made a point of highlighting their snazzy new “privacy hub” where users can easily access all of Facebook’s privacy info.

While my cynical side says the changes were all CYA initiatives, the truth is that the policy alterations aren’t only a vanity play. In fact, the changes were in large part prompted by an edict put forth by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, who laid out several online privacy points Facebook would have to rectify in order to qualify for the EU Safe Harbor list.

All that said, the changes also knock down several information-sharing barriers, which will allow Facebook to grow, grow, grow and share, share, share (your data…that is) for revenue!

So if you’re interested in learning what Facebook plans to do with all your info, grab a cold one, as it’s time to pick apart their new privacy policy to see what changes are in store and how it will affect you (the user who did not become a multi-millionaire today).

Mundane Language & Housekeeping Changes In Facebook’s Online Privacy Policy

Before we get to the juicy stuff, let’s get the mundane language-clarifying/housekeeping changes out of the way.

  1. The word “post” has been largely replaced with “timeline.”
  2. Facebook’s European Union Safe Harbor certification was added.
  3. New language and explanations were added about the “activity log” functionality.
  4. Actual addresses of where you can snail-mail questions and concerns have been added.

Now let’s get to the points that online privacy pundits (both professional and armchair) will be talking about over the next four weeks.

The New Facebook Privacy Policy: We Want To Know Your Gender!

In the previous version of Facebook’s privacy policy, your profile picture, user ID, and network were listed as perpetually publicly available. In this knew iteration, gender has been added to the list. In the policy, Facebook says the addition of gender disclosure is so they “can refer to you properly” – but common sense says using someone’s profile name is the safest way to refer to them “properly.” Unless Facebook’s true intent is to transport us back to Edwardian days, when not to address someone using a male/female identifier was an insult, making gender a publicly available data point most likely has to do with ad targeting…but hey, that’s just me being cynical.

Your Private Life Is at the Mercy of Your Facebook Friends’ Whims

Sure, you may have considerable control over your own Facebook profile/timeline, but the new privacy policy makes it clear that your friends have a lot of control over your profile/timeline, too. What on earth do I mean? Well, the new terms clearly state that although some data, like group posts or messages, is not stored in your account, if you do delete your account, past “public” information associated with you does not get deleted.

The authors of Facebook’s new privacy policy also took the time to lay out an example of how your friends can foil any plans for secrecy you may have.

“Although you choose with whom you share, there may be ways for others to determine information about you. For example, if you hide your birthday so no one can see it on your timeline, but friends post “happy birthday!” on your timeline, people may determine your birthday.”

They also point out that if you originally comment on a story/post that your friend had marked private and your friend later decides to make said story public, any comment that you left on the story will also become public. In other words, never write anything on Facebook you wouldn’t ever want becoming public knowledge, even if your friend swears up, down, backwards and forwards that they will never make the story public; if you don’t want to kick yourself down the line, don’t post any thoughts or pics you want to remain private now – or ten years from now.

Oh, and, Facebook’s new privacy policy also now says that they receive information about you from friends and “others.” (Hmmm, I wonder how much info Jacob has on me?)

Ummm, We’re Gonna Stalk You, K?

Another point Facebook makes clear in their new privacy policy is that they plan to keep abreast of your location coordinates. Specifically, they may “retain the GPS coordinates of your last location-tagged post to send you relevant notifications” like “if any of your friends are nearby.” (Hint: If you’ve had a bad falling out with someone, you may want to look into blocking them from your Facebook completely, as it may not be to fun to have a foe clued in to your location.)

Sharing Is Caring (And A Great Way To Raise Revenue) So We’re Going To Do A Lot Of It

One of the most dramatic changes in Facebook’s new privacy policy is the added language that lets users know: “Yo! We intend to share your information with third parties; get used to it.” (Hey, how else are they gonna make enough revenue to live up to this IPO?) A detailed explanation of how the platform uses cookies is now also up on the Facebook privacy hub.

Facebook’s online privacy policy also asserts that:

  1. Your information can be used for “internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement.”
  2. Facebook is allowed to make photo tag suggestions based on your data.
  3. Apps you visit or use will be supplied with your age so they can serve up age appropriate content.
  4. Pretty much everything you do and share on Facebook can be used to target ads to you.

So yes, in order to use the site, all of Facebook’s 900 million users, must comply with the rules above. If you’re cool with them documenting every move you make on the platform (and beyond), go for it! (Just remember that they also mentioned in this new privacy policy that “Facebook doesn’t guarantee it can protect you from spam.”)

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