Posted March 19, 2012 5:14 pm by with 1 comment

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Facebook has just released their proposed changes to their privacy policy and it’s got the masses upset. (Surprise!).

First and foremost, they’ve changed the name of the document from Privacy Policy to Data Use Policy and that should tell you all you need to know.

Let me pause a moment to reiterate my feelings on internet privacy. I see it as an oxymoron. If you put content in a public space, I don’t care if you mark it private and lock it up six ways to Sunday, you have to understand that it’s not secure. If someone wants that information badly enough, they’ll get it and spread it around as they please. So don’t put information online you don’t want your mother or girlfriend to see.

Next, let’s talk about the cost of using Facebook. There is no cost, so you have to give a little in order to make it so. If that means allowing an advertiser to see you age and location, it’s worth it if you can play another round of Draw Something.

Now, back to Facebook. The paragraph that is particularly disturbing is this one:

When you or others who can see your content and information use an application, your content and information is shared with the application. We require applications to respect your privacy, and your agreement with that application will control how the application can use, store, and transfer that content and information.

The bold phrase is a new addition to the policy. Going forward, it won’t just be about the apps you chose to use, but the ones your friends chose as well. I don’t know exactly how this is going to work, but it could simply mean I’ll see ads for games my friends like to play. It could mean that an app developer can see the ages of all your friends, so they can better target those ads. What it doesn’t mean is that the app developer can take my friend’s risqué, bachelorette party photos and email them to her fiancé just because I play their game.

The new Facebook policy clearly states that they won’t allow any misuse of private information but they’re definitely opening the gates a little wider.

Other changes include a lessening of responsibility for click fraud in section 11. It used to state “We do, however, have systems that detect and filter certain suspicious click activity.” The new phrasing is “We have systems that attempt to detect and filter certain click activity.” Attempt, instead of “we do” and they removed suspicious. (Note; I’m working from the track changes doc here, so it’s tricky reading.)

They also updated the language concerning “hate speech” to be more specific. Actually, most of the changes are designed to clear up ambiguities in the original language and as such, are nothing to worry about.

I see these changes as Facebook coming clean about the facts. They are in the data business and by using their free service, you’re giving them the right to use your data. It’s as simple as that. Anyone who doesn’t like it, can leave a complaint before 5:00 pm PDT, March 22, 2012. After that, its up to you to stay or go.

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  • Having a Facebook or any type of social media account is a privacy trade-off (although Facebook seems to gather more personal data than any other social networking site) because even content set to private can be hacked if someone really wanted to access your data. It’s important for users to know their boundaries when it comes to sharing information on the web.