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.