Today Facebook proposed a raft of changes to its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and Data-Use Policies, two separate documents that govern the way the company handles advertising, user data, and third-party retention of that data.
The updates are “proposals,” Facebook tells me, and so they will accept and review comments on them from its user community. However, I doubt that the company is up for much iteration. As its Chief Privacy Office Erin Egan noted in a short statement, Facebook is “proposing this update as part of a settlement in a court case relating to advertising.”
The proposals are broad and varied, so we have some ground to cover:
The rewritten section about ads is clear: “You give us permission to use your name, profile picture, content, and information in connection with commercial, sponsored, or related content.” In other words, Facebook can use anything you have uploaded in its advertising algorithms and systems.
This is neither surprising nor out of bounds. That Facebook would employ public information supplied by its users to generate revenue is hardly evil. Importantly, Facebook will respect your privacy choices in how it uses your content: “If you have selected a specific audience for your content or information, we will respect your choice when we use it.” Good.
Another change to the rules will be of interest to the litigious among you: Legal action against Facebook is now limited to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, or in a state court “located in San Mateo County.” The prior set of rules demanded a Santa Clara court, but the company moved its headquarters, thus requiring the change.
Facebook changed its data-usage rules, as well. The company now claims the right to know what sort of computer or other device you are using. So, it can tell if you are on Android or the like. This is somewhat innocuous, though Facebook does retain the right to — and this is not new — “get your GPS or other location information so we can tell you if any of your friends are nearby.” Big Facebook. That buzzing on your phone is your friend checking into the bar a block away.
Sharing Your Data
Facebook also claims the right to share your public information with others: “We may enable access to public information that has been shared through our services, or allow service providers to access information so they can help us provide service.” In other words, Facebook can vend your public information to others. Lock down whatever you really don’t want out there, folks.