Facebook Adopts Updated Privacy Policy After Relatively Few User Comments

Last night, Facebook announced that after a week-long “notice and comment” period, it has decided to adopt the updated privacy policy it initially proposed in late October.

Because the proposed policy did not receive over 7,000 comments — the threshold Facebook laid out in its latest Statement of Rights and Responsibilities — the new policy did not go to site-wide user voting as happened earlier this year. In fact, the English version of the draft only got about 1,000 comments total.

What changes does the new policy bring about? As we detailed when the new policy was proposed, part of the intent with this draft was to provide a “clearer and more comprehensive” description of what the policies actually mean.

Facebook also added a blurb on “location” in which Facebook says it will treat your location as subject to your overall privacy settings (share with “everyone,” just “friends,” etc.). So Facebook is preparing, at least legally, for more location-based services:

Location Information. When you share your location with others or add a location to something you post, we treat that like any other content you post (for example, it is subject to your privacy settings). If we offer a service that supports this type of location sharing we will present you with an opt-in choice of whether you want to participate.

In terms of advertising, Facebook has included language that allows it to provide general statistics about users who interact with ads, but not personally identifiable information. Facebook also says:

We may institute programs with advertising partners and other websites in which they share information with us:

  • We may ask advertisers to tell us how our users responded to the ads we showed them (and for comparison purposes, how other users who didn’t see the ads acted on their site). This data sharing, commonly known as “conversion tracking,” helps us measure our advertising effectiveness and improve the quality of the advertisements you see.
  • We may receive information about whether or not you’ve seen or interacted with certain ads on other sites in order to measure the effectiveness of those ads.

Other notable reiterations of previous policies include what Facebook has to say to developers. “We do not guarantee that Platform will always be free,” according to the document.

Overall, the new policy does not represent any major shift in Facebook’s privacy philosophy, but is a part of its overall effort to simplify its privacy and legal documentation.

More politicians and watchdog organizations are paying attention to Facebook’s privacy policies too. The Privacy Commissioner of Canada has pushed the company to adopt more detailed rules about a number of practices, including better informing users what data they are sharing, and with whom.

And just today, Jim Gamble of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, criticized Facebook for not placing the CEOP “report” button on its website. Facebook responded, “We are confident that the Ceop button is an excellent solution for sites that have not invested in as robust a reporting infrastructure as Facebook has in place and one we continue to improve.”