The 5 biggest changes to Facebook’s privacy policies

While you were probably home enjoying time off from work for Thanksgiving, Facebook was busy revising their privacy policies. You’ve probably heard about this because people in your news feed have been posting status updates declaring that they own their Facebook data (spoiler alert: those don’t do anything).

There are major changes in the works that affect who they can share your personal information with and who can send you private messages, so we read the fine print and picked out the top 5 points you need to know.

1.     Facebook is sharing your personal information with a lot more people

Under the proposed changes, Facebook can share your info with advertisers and anyone they’re affiliated with. The kinds of data they can share include all your Likes, what you’re typing into comments and private messages, and anything you provided when registering for a Facebook account. Facebook notes in its Data Use Policy that this info may include sensitive subjects like “religion, health status, or political views.” Facebook will also receive additional info about you through their affiliates (so now that Facebook owns Instagram, for example, anything you do on Instagram will be fair game for Facebook).

This change could open the door for Facebook to build unified, detailed profiles of its members from both their Facebook activity and their activity on affiliated sites or services, similar to Google’s overhaul of its privacy policies earlier this year. 

2.     You’ll no longer be able to limit who can send you private messages

You used to be able to control who could send you a private Facebook message from your “How You Connect” settings (like “only let people in my network message me”), but that control will disappear if the proposed terms take effect. Instead, anyone on Facebook will be able to send you a message, and “anyone on a message thread can reply to it.” Get ready for Facebook’s inbox to become more like your email inbox, where you’ll get unsolicited spam from companies and people you don’t know (or people you don’t want messaging you).

3.     Facebook wants to launch an online advertising network

Facebook has extended its data-sharing reach to include not only the advertisers they work with, but those advertisers’ partners. They’ve also expanded the type of tracking they’re say they’re doing from cookies to other “system technologies in order to serve ads.” Facebook first ventured into ad network territory with Facebook Exchange, a one-way ad network that shows you ads on Facebook based on the other sites you visit across the web. With a full ad network, you’ll start seeing ads across the web that use your Facebook information to target you.

4.     Facebook wants to get rid of your ability to vote on their policy changes

If more than 7,000 people comment on a proposed Facebook policy change, it triggers a vote on that change. For a vote to be binding, at least 30% of Facebook’s users have to weigh in. That means more than 300 million people have to vote, which is more than twice the number who voted in the 2012 presidential election. In other words, it’s pretty unlikely. Despite the practical effect of having a vote, Facebook members are complaining that Facebook’s removing its vote is less democracy and more dictatorship. Almost 13,000 people had commented on the proposal as of today, so we’ll have the third—and probably the final—vote on Facebook’s policies within a few days. You can cast your vote by visiting Facebook’s Site Governance page at https://www.facebook.com/fbsitegovernance.

5.     More clarification from Facebook that almost everything you post is visible, even if you limit its visibility later

In several places in the proposed Data Use Policy, Facebook reminds members that its privacy settings are limited. They stress that even if you hide something on your timeline, you’re often only hiding it from yourself: it may still show up in search results and be visible to anyone in the audience for that post. They also emphasize that anyone can find you through a link to your Facebook info, including your Timeline or things you’ve posted. In sum, anyone—not just your friends—can tag you and link to your Facebook content. Lastly, they’re not calling it “your data” anymore and are changing it to “information about you:” minor detail, or an implication that Facebook doesn’t want you to think it’s yours?


If you don’t like these changes, make sure to vote on them on Facebook’s Site Governance page and spread the word to your friends and family. That, or stop using Facebook. It’s reached a point where Facebook is set on using and sharing your personal information with a large network of advertisers and affiliates, and there’s no sign they’re slowing down.




23 comments shared on this article:

  • Rene Munoz says:

    Ridiculous.

  • Valentino Pedroncelli says:

    I have heard it said, “Ain’t technology great?”. I agree, it is great,
    for I am a life-long gadgeteer, tech-junkie, experimenter, tool-user.

    However I ask,
    Are all so ready for all that stuff, those who use it so gleefully and readily?
    Most do not understand anything (under the hood) at all about those convenient apps.
    We are intellectually lazy (I don’t need to read any complicated instructions!) or
    complacently ignorant (There are protections against THAT aren’t there?)
    or believing in our individual maneuverability (It can’t happen to me!)?

    If each individual is not aware of personal safety and security issues
    (physical, economic, electronic, privacy, political) then
    they are “fresh meat” for many predators:
    from the street-level muggers, burglars, con-artists, used-car-dealers to the
    payday-loan-sharks (& major banks), insurance firms, investment firms,
    Civil Rights-dissolving militarized local police & nation-wide War-On-Terror departments,
    privacy-dissolving marketing & political & business organizations,
    pandering politicians selling out their constituents.

    • Valentino Pedroncelli says:

      Additionally, I urge one-and-all to contact Facebook corporate (after voting at Facebook’s Site Governance page).
      Express your personal desires to retain as much personal-privacy and personal-preferences-control over information to be “shared”.
      Incidentally, all should take the time to read And To Understand Facebook’s ‘Terms’ and ‘Policy’ and ‘Press’ pages, and to check-out Facebook’s published business plans.
      I’d BET one-out-of-a-dozen THOUSAND will actually do this personal-protection step!

      Those who really care about their own (& that of others) civil Rights and online privacy and ‘freedom of information’ should further check-out the information from and activities of the ‘Orgs’ listed under “Helpful Links & Organizations” on this website.

    • Sarah Downey says:

      You’re right that most people take the easy route and subject themselves–usually without knowing it–to all sorts of privacy violations. Clicking “approve” on that app; signing up for that account; logging in with Facebook on that site…it all adds up. That’s why we’re trying to make privacy protection easy, too.

  • Jeremy says:

    This is ridiculous and getting way too free with giving out information w/o consent, or even asking.
    FB goes this open on handing out info, I KNOW that I and one other person I know will be deleting as much as possible, including our FB account, or deactivating it. We will do our best to remove or make any info as inaccessible as we can.

    If this happens, I’m sure FB will be just like myspace. Anyone remember that? Log in lately? Does it even exist anymore?
    Yes, FB will fall apart!

    • Sarah Downey says:

      I totally agree. Facebook can’t exist without its users’ trust, and that’s been eroding. Remember how big AOL was in the 90′s? People thought it was a monopoly and that it was here to stay. Now look around you: who still signs on with AOL? Some new, more attractive option will come along to replace Facebook, and a lot of the reason why people will prefer it is because it treats them with respect. At least that’s what we’re hoping. Give it a few years :)

  • randall rogers says:

    In a real and tangible way, Facebook (and I use it some too) is Big Brother. The joke is on us because in literature, it always was painted as overtly frightening and naturally off-putting. The fact is, it is one seductive and dangerously ‘fun’ place to hang out. Ever think in your wildest dreams you would INVITE Big Brother into your life to share all your likes and dislikes, your friends and fetishes? It is both brilliant and disgusting.

    • Sarah Downey says:

      It’s pretty deceptive :/ Unfortunately, the government is doing the same things: look at the NSA’s surveillance program.

  • SR says:

    I deleted FB a couple years ago. I closed out my Google account a few months ago. Who know’s how much info they’ve actually kept? I really have no reason to believe they actually deleted anything, just disassociated from an account that can be logged on.

    Thank you Abine for DNT+ and DeleteMe!

    • Sarah Downey says:

      Unfortunately, you’re probably right. Their business model is to hold on to as much data as they can to try to make money off it later, so it’s doubtful that anything’s totally gone. And you’re welcome! We’re so glad you like what we’re doing.

  • Juan says:

    I never post anything on Facebook as they have no regard for my privacy. I only use it to see what my friends are doing. For example of their lack of concern, note that this article was written on November 26, 2012. Three days later, Facebook is no longer accepting comments about the Governance Policy. They really don´t care anyway.I am a new user of DNT and I´m amazed at how many site track me with Facebook and / or require a Facebook account to view articles or make comments. For that reason, I use a fake Facebook account.

  • tsakos says:

    Great work. Your work has inspired me in a lot ways… keep this going, I’m following like a fan. :)

    • Sarah Downey says:

      Thanks! That’s what we’re here for: someone has to translate Facebook’s policy changes so they’re understandable!

  • Jinny says:

    It may be time to delete my Facebook account! This is an invasion of everyone’s right to provacy!

  • CTH says:

    What’s really hilarious and hypocritical is that, while Abine warns us about the privacy abuses that Facebook commits every day and urges us to purchase their software to protect our information, Abine has a nice, big Facebook icon on this same page! And just to make sure that it covers all of its bases, Abine also has a Twitter icon on this page. Even the people who sell products that allegedly protect us from Facebook can’t resist playing in the Facebook sandbox. So will Abine’s anti-Facebook software delete the Facebook cookies that will be inserted into our computer if we are dumb enough to click on one of those icons above?

    • Sarah Downey says:

      Nottttt quite: those buttons you see up there aren’t the tracking Like and Tweet buttons that our software blocks. They’re just plain HTML without tracking embedded. Sure, if you use them to visit Facebook or Twitter and leave our blog, you’re opening yourself up to whatever tracking they use there. But the icons themselves are safe, the same way the placeholder buttons we use when you’re using DNT+ are safe. You have a point that we have a presence on Twitter and Facebook, but as long as our users are there and find it useful to reach out to us on there, which they do–a lot–then we’ll be there. Plus it’s our job to understand what’s going on with social network privacy, which we can’t really do without having firsthand knowledge. Finally, our tracker-blocking software is free, so I’m not sure what you’re talking about there.

  • ciara says:

    I deleted or discontinued my Facebook account about two months ago. I never opened my Facebook email, so I didn’t know or care who was sending me annoying messages. I got a second-hand standard email (with three viruses Norton let through initially) that a man I used to live with was looking for me to help another guy find me. Not interested. Twenty years ago, when I used a terminal at work but didn’t have a home computer, I’d broken up with a guy who was fucking around on me and he stalked me. The next time I saw him in public with witnesses, I told him that if he took the stalking to the next step (breaking into my home), I’d shoot him. He found other things to do with his time. (Unfortunately, several ladies I know told me that night that he’d stalked them as well, and they didn’t know what to do about it. I told them to call the cops or get a gun — or both. This was a few years before the cops took stalking seriously, so calling them was a waste of time, but it did get the problem on record.)

    How many more stalkers are folks going to get with Facebook’s new crap? I opened an account several years ago but only went into it every six months or so. The last time I went into it, I saw the “timeline” change, and learned that Facebook had “helped” me by setting up a timeline for me. I don’t need that kind of help. (I’d never put much information in Facebook because I have no need to live my life with an audience, which is what Facebook looked to be. The timeline was the last straw, so I decided to see if I could shut down my Facebook account.) I also noticed that I’d been hacked, but you can only report hacking if you know the date it happened; if you rarely go into Facebook, you can tell that it happened, but can’t tell when. If you don’t want to delete your account, change your password every time you do go in.

    It takes a lot of looking, but there is (or at least was) a way to kill your account. I will not go back in to see what happened, because that just gives Facebook more information to sell.

    If a good many people shut down their Facebook accounts, Facebook will start to understand that they’re way out of line. Write to friends in other countries and tell them the same thing. Would you like to be living in Syria right now and have a Facebook account criticizing either the government or the rebels? It would be even more frightening than Syria is now. And now the folks in Syria can’t even go in and delete things, cause the government shut down the internet. It can happen here, too.

    Write to your Senators and Representative and tell them to write laws stopping this kind of crap. Include in your email that you want the government to have a real warrant and a requirement that they notify you before they start reading your on-line correspondence.

    It’s all recorded by NSA, but in theory, they have to have a warrant to access the recordings. For the younger crowd, go back and read (or re-read) 1984. Also, read Black List by Brad Thor. Then decide if you still want to use Facebook. (Petraeus is a different issue because he was using the CIA’s hardware and internet connections and should have known the FBI was checking it. They need to be looking into the lower level agents who drive expensive cars and live in expensive houses; they’re selling classified information to some other government.)

  • Janice T says:

    I am really sure I will cancel my Facebook site if this remains open to the public. Now I’m wondering if Facebook is doing that bad that they would find an excuse to sell our information. Is facebook doing well or what?

  • This is so ridiculous!! No doubt they are the social media giant but it’s our privacy that they should be concern about!

  • Spot on with this write-up, I seriously believe that
    this amazing site needs a great deal more attention.
    I’ll probably be back again to read more, thanks for the advice!

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