Facebook Goes Ahead With Updates to Data Use Policy

Says language changes do not affect a change in policy

Facebook went ahead Friday with edits to its data use policy that the social network says really changes nothing about its advertising and policy practices.

The language changes, proposed in September as a result of a class action settlement, were meant to clarify that a Facebook user's likes, pictures and comments, may be used in ads. 

Despite Facebook's insistence that the editorial changes did not constitute a change in policy, privacy advocates and some Congress members still charged the social network was pulling a fast one, requesting that Facebook allow users to opt-in or opt-out of the ads. A number of groups filed a letter with the Federal Trade Commission that Facebook had violated its 20-year consent decree with the agency.

In a blog post Facebook's chief privacy officer Erin Egan insisted that the changes were all about language. 

"We want you to know that nothing about this update has changed our advertising policies and practices," Egan wrote. "We heard this question a lot so we want to be clear. The goal of the update was to clarify language, not to change policies or practices."

As part of the language changes, Facebook decided to remove from its update what it called a "minor update" to the policy that said: "If you are under the age of 18 you have talked to your parent or guardian and they also agree to our terms."

The teens clause had alarmed privacy advocates who read the clause as Facebook trying to target teens with more ads.

"This language was about getting a conversation started; we were not seeking and would not have gained any additional rights as a result of this addition. We received feedback, though, that the language was confusing and so we removed the sentence," Egan said.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) still wasn't buying Facebook's explanations, insisting the language changes were more than just clarification and provided additional evidence for Congress to pass his Do Not Track Kids Act, introduced earlier this week

"The speed with which Facebook is pushing teens to share their sensitive, personal information widely and publicly online must spur Congress to act commensurately to put strong privacy protections on the books for teens and parents,” said Markey. “Now is the time to pass the bipartisan Do Not Track Kids Act so that children and teens don’t have their information collected and sold to the highest bidder. Corporations like Facebook should not be profiting from the personal and sensitive information of children and teens, and parents and teens should have the right to control their personal information online.”


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