Facebook's latest policy change: What it means for you

Facebook has proposed some changes to its terms, data policy and cookie policy and the company is open to public opinion on the same.


When one signs up for a social network, how many of us really go through the terms and conditions before signing up? Like most Facebook users, you may have ignored the Facebook privacy policy that came into scanner only after the whole 'people-used-as-lab-rats conundrum'. Now, Facebook has proposed some changes to its terms, data policy and cookie policy and the company is open to public opinion on the same. It is accepting suggestions and questions until November 20th, before issuing the final draft. So, let's take a quick look at what are the new changes and what they mean for you.

To begin with, Facebook is simplifying the terms and conditions pages (basically, how they look and the language) and you don't have to sift through tedious 9,000 plus words, rather it is being made colourful, clickable and will also include animations; all of it packaged in 2,700 words. This also means, less legal jargon. The Privacy Basics page now says you are in charge and segregates into three categories - What others see about you, How others interact with you and What you see. It's a simpler walk through around your timeline, comments, likes, privacy and so on, and how others can interact with you using these features.

It's made simple to read, but that doesn't mean your data is any safer. The data policy isn't a complete overhaul and you will simply find some tweaks here and there. It does give people the option to choose whether or not to share information with third-party apps, but they still can't select what type of information is shared. The new data policy now makes it clear that Facebook has the right to use information people share on Facebook to target ads on and off Facebook.

One of the paragraphs clearly states that Facebook will be using your location and data to make big bucks through advertisements.

Information about payments
If you use our Services for purchases or financial transactions (like when you buy something on Facebook, make a purchase in a game, or make a donation), we collect information about the purchase or transaction. This includes your payment information, such as your credit or debit card number and other card information, and other account and authentication information, as well as billing, shipping and contact details.

At the same time, the Facebook blog states, "We want our advertising to be as relevant and interesting as the other information you find on our services. With this in mind, we use all of the information we have about you to show you relevant ads."

The Register points out that Facebook is simply trying to hide the fact that it will sell its users to advertisers. It further states that legal terms may be jargon, but are a better option than stating the terms in general language, which gives Facebook lawyers 'far too much leeway.'  "It's easy to spot when someone is overstepping the mark. It's sort of like computer code; it's not supposed to be ambiguous. The legalese has to stay because an agreement written in general terms would give the lawyers at Facebook far too much leeway – there would be plenty of room for interpretation on what exactly the website's up to with your information, the report adds.

All in all, Facebook has just made it easier for users to understand how the site works and how their data will be used. Users can add their preferences to what type of ads they wish to see, but they can't get rid of the ads totally or gain complete control of the data. The answer is simple, it would jeopardise Facebook's business model.

On one hand, it is nice to see Facebook penning down everything and maintaining transparency. On the other, most people wouldn't even bother to read the terms  and conditions or the changes being carried out. And, that's the truth. Most people will continue to use Facebook even if they dislike the way the social network treats their data to target ads.

Last year, the company was slapped with a civil lawsuit for making changes in Instagram’s Terms of Services (ToS) and Privacy Policy that made it look like Instagram owned user-generated images and had the rights to sell them or use them in advertisements as and when they pleased. May be this has compelled the company to give users some time to weigh in the new terms. We don't know how serious the social network is about public opinion, but Facebook users who do have suggestions, queries or comments can post it here.

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