Facebook Clarifies Some Changes to the Data Use Policy

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Following the recommendation of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner that Facebook change its data retention policies, the social networking site announced today that it has made said changes. Additionally, Facebook proffered explanations for how the Privacy Policy Data Use Policy affects features that have launched since the policy underwent the redesign last year.

The changes recommended by the IDPC were originally set to be completed by this past March although Facebook worked with the agency until now, which, as you've noticed, is now May. The small time extension prompted a European privacy advocate to assert that Facebook ignored the deadline, although Facebook said defended itself in saying that it had made several of the recommended changes by March and wasn't giving the IDPC the snub but, rather, in "constant dialogue" with the agency about the changes.

In a post by Erin Egan, the Chief Privacy Officer for Facebook, detailed the many changes to the Data Use Policy:

Today, we’re proposing improvements that respond to this feedback. We’re adding more examples and detailed explanations to help you understand our policies. For example, we include additional tips, marked with a light bulb so you can find them easily. We’ve added new links to our Help Center. We created a new section explaining how we use “cookies” and similar technologies and updated the corresponding explanations about cookies in our Help Center. We also provide more information about how we use data to operate Facebook, to advertise, and to promote safety and security for Facebook users. These examples and explanations are designed to help you understand what the Data Use Policy means in practice.

Since our last update to the Data Use Policy, we’ve launched several new features, and we’re also updating our policy to include information about how they work. For instance, we describe Activity Log, a new privacy tool that lets you see in one place the information you’ve posted to Facebook. From Activity Log, you can control who can see each piece of information and decide whether it appears on your timeline. We also updated our policy to reflect our launch of timeline and to provide information on cover photos and other Facebook features that work with timeline. Finally, we’ve made a number of organizational changes to make things easier to find, as well as some administrative updates.

Facebook's also launching a Terms and Policies Hub where users can easily access the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, Data Use Policy, and the Community Standards. You can access this hub easily by clicking on the Terms link at the bottom of any Facebook page.

Striving for a suitable level of transparency, Egan wrote that there will be a Q&A about the changes to the Data Use Policy on Monday, May 14 at 12PM EST where Egan herself will be answering some questions via live chat.

Facebook's Data Use Policy is written in a pretty accessible vernacular but, even still, it's a girthy read that clocks in around 7,000 words. If you're just scanning to see the changes from today, look for these icons:

Facebook Data Use Policy

Because Facebook doesn't always tell you when they're changing the Data Use Policy, though, Abine just released a great tool yesterday, PrivacyWatch, that serves as an alert system for users whenever Facebook alters its policy.