Facebook proposes changes to Data Use Policy, updates disclosure on potential for off-platform ads

Facebook proposed a number of changes to its Data Use Policy on Friday, including an updated disclosure about the potential for Facebook data to be used to serve ads on other sites.

The social network also added a number of examples and tips for users to better understand its policies. A pdf of the tracked changes and an explanation of the proposed updates are available from the Facebook Site Governance page. Users have until this coming Friday at 5 p.m. PDT to comment on the changes.

Notably, Facebook has modified its wording about the potential for ads off Facebook to suggest that if it began showing these ads, they may or may not include social context. Part of what makes Facebook ads effective is that they highlight the connections between a business and a user’s friends. However, users might be upset if this information began appearing in ads elsewhere online. Perhaps the company is considering whether to create an ad network that doesn’t show these connections so explicitly. Regardless of whether its ads display social context, the demographic and interest data Facebook has on more than 900 million users could allow Facebook to create an ad network that targets ads more effectively than Google’s AdSense.

Most of the changes Facebook is proposing to its Data Use Policy include editing language related to new features like Sponsored Stories, Timeline and Activity Log. The company has also added clearer examples of what its policy means for users per recommendations from the Irish Data Protection Commissioner’s Office, which audited the social network’s data collection practices last year. Here are some of the significant additions to the policy:

  • New language that explains how Facebook will retain data. The company will continue to retain most data received from advertisers for 180 days, but it notes that there may be some times when it will need to keep information longer. For example, if an advertiser creates a Facebook page, the social network won’t delete information the advertiser puts on its page simply because 180 days had passed. Instead, Facebook will delete it when when the page owner deleted it or closed its account.
  • New language to explain that, in addition to websites, apps — including those on page tabs — may also use instant personalization.
  • New section explaining Facebook’s use of “cookies” and other tracking technologies.
  • New language about groups and subgroups to reflect the launch of “Groups for Schools,” which are special groups that are only open to people who have a confirmed email address for a particular school.

Since 2009, the social network has taken a unique approach with its terms of service. Before instituting any new policies, the company shares proposed changes with users, who then have a period of time to comment and ask questions. For example, in April, Facebook proposed revisions to its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities based on feedback it received on the first draft in March. In some cases, Facebook even puts issues up to a vote.

Last week the social network created a new hub for all of its terms and policies here.