Facebook privacy policies explained

By Paul O’Reilly

Last week, Facebook unveiled a new look for its much-criticized privacy policies. Admitting that its policies are difficult for people to understand because they are written for lawyers and regulators, Facebook has applied its “unconventional, innovative spirit to develop a new privacy policy for regular people.”

In a Friday posting on its site governance page, Facebook suggested that it was trying to follow three basic principles in the revamp of its policies: first, they should be easy to understand; second, they should be visual and interactive; and third, they should focus on the questions Facebook users are most likely to ask.

The new document now breaks down the “Data Use Policy” under six different headings:

  • Your information and how it is used
  • Your information on Facebook
  • Your information on other websites and applications
  • How advertising works
  • Minors and safety
  • Some other things you need to know

Along with non-legal notes and examples, most sections carry helpful tips on how you can use some of Facebook’s existing tools to make your presence more secure. For example, under Your information on Facebook, there is a section explaining how you can customize the audience for every single post you make.

Other sections shed light on notoriously misunderstood topics. If you have ever wondered how Facebook chooses the ads it serves to each individual member, or what happens to your personal data when you sign up for Facebook-hosted applications, then it’s all here in gratifyingly simple terms.

According to the Wall Street Journal, privacy and product counsel for Facebook Edward Palmieri decided it was time the social network applied its increasingly simple and clean cut approach to its privacy policies. “We struggle with really hitting home to users that we do not sell their data to advertisers,” said Mr. Palmieri, so the new policy includes screen shots that show what advertisers see about Facebook users.

While the new document may not alleviate all the concerns of users and regulators, it certainly goes a long way to making the existing policies more accessible and easier to understand.

Follow Paul on Twitter @TheTechDad

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