Facebook updates privacy policy, will answer questions Monday

Facebook has outlined significant changes to its privacy (aka Data Use) policy and is asking its users for feedback. The company has also scheduled a live Q&A video for this coming Monday.
Written by Emil Protalinski, Contributor

Update - Watch it live: Facebook privacy policy Q&A

Facebook today proposed improvements to its privacy policy, which the company calls its Data Use Policy. You can view the tracked changes above and go through an explanation of them over on the Facebook Site Governance webpage. All six sections are being tweaked (I've picked one change and explanation from each to give you a better idea):

  • Section I. Information we receive and how it is used - Your information and Information that is always publicly available. In these sections, we've stated the kinds of information about you that are always public. For instance, your gender is public information, and we use your gender throughout the site to refer to you properly. And, as we've explained throughout the Data Use Policy, your gender is shared with apps so they can refer to you properly as well. You will still be able to hide your gender on your timeline. In addition, cover photos are a new part of the Facebook experience, and we're updating the Data Use Policy to let you know that, just like your profile pictures, your cover photos are public. If you're uncomfortable with making your profile pictures or cover photos public, you can always delete them.
  • Section II. Sharing and finding you on Facebook - Access on phones and other devices. Since more people than ever are using Facebook on their mobile phones, we thought it was important to add more information about how Facebook works on mobile devices. As part of mobile integrations, other users may sync or save information you've shared with them to their mobile devices – such as contact information or event information from a calendar invite. We have included a tip to remind you that you should only share information with people you trust because they may be able to store or re-share that information, including by syncing it with a mobile device.
  • Section III. Other websites and applications - Controlling what information you share with applications. We've added language here to clarify the type of information apps receive when you install them. We describe the limited categories of information that Facebook tells apps when you first visit them. If an app wants additional information, they must get your permission. If you do this, the app can access, store and update that information. Once you haven't used the app for a while, however, that app won't be able to continue updating this additional information until you give it permission again. In addition, we've added a tip to remind you that apps have their own policies around how they handle the data they receive and that you should contact an app directly if you want your information deleted.
  • Section IV. How Advertising and Sponsored Stories work - Personalized ads. We're providing more details about how we serve you personalized ads, including the information we use to serve you ads and make them more relevant to you. We use cookies, pixels or similar technologies to measure and understand the performance of our ads, to serve other ads and to generally make our ads more effective. We want to be sure you understand how cookies work, so we have added more information about them in the Data Use Policy and added a link to our Help Center (https://www.facebook.com/help/?page=176591669064814). We're also clarifying our existing disclosure that we might show ads off Facebook to explain that, if we showed these ads, they may or may not include social context (such as whether your friends have "liked" a particular business).
  • Section V. Cookies, pixels, and other system technologies - We've moved up and added to the section on Cookies. The new proposed Section V is called Cookies, pixels, and other system technologies. Since cookies are a very commonly used technology, we want to provide you with more detail on how Facebook uses cookies and similar technologies. We also include a tip in this section reminding you that you can remove or block cookies and similar technologies.
  • Section VI. Some other things you need to know - Access requests. This section reflects our belief that you should have access to your personal data on Facebook. We've updated this language to reflect a recently launched expansion to Download Your Information, a tool that allows you access to an expanded archive of your Facebook account history.

If you want to comment on the changes, pick your language: English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Turkish, Korean, and Portuguese. At the time of writing, very few comments have been made in English.

Facebook has also scheduled a live video Q&A for 9:00 AM PDT / 12:00 PM EST on Monday, May 14. You can watch and ask questions by going to on.fb.me/fbdctalks and clicking the "Talk to Us" button. Facebook Chief Privacy Officer for Policy Erin Egan will be hosting the event.

"Please take a look and weigh in. We work on user privacy issues each and every day – it matters," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "We listen closely to your advice and together we can make Facebook the community we want."

Facebook today also launched a Facebook Terms and Policies Hub at facebook.com/policies. This webpage will serve as a central location for all of the service's terms and policies, and will be available at the bottom of most pages on Facebook under the word "Terms", as well as on the Help Center.

The company said it is adding more examples and detailed explanations to help its users understand its policies, including additional tips, new links and information in its Help Center, and a new section explaining how the service uses cookies and similar technologies. Menlo Park also added details as to how it uses data to operate Facebook, to advertise, and to promote safety and security for its users.

Today's update has been a long time coming. This past December, Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) completed his three-month privacy audit of Facebook's activities. Facebook promised to make a slew of changes, and agreed to a more formal follow-up review in July 2012.

Update - Watch it live: Facebook privacy policy Q&A

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