Facebook’s new terms and conditions explained

Facebook says it wants to take with one hand and give with another when it comes to privacy. Consumer advocates are sceptical.

The focus is on the company’s new terms and conditions on privacy for users, which will go into effect January 1.

Facebook has told its users that it will start gathering more data about its users. However, at the same time, it says it will provide users with more control over that same information.

All users have gotten an alert about the changes, which covers everything – from the way information is used; to direct advertising to a user’s feed; to updates about projects that allow people to buy items via Facebook.

It’s definitely worth the time to read the document, say experts. After all, even if there is no way to opt out of parts of the plan, it’s still important to know what rights Facebook is claiming for itself.

“Facebook gives itself the right to gather up all user information and make use of it,” says Sabine Petri, an attorney with the Consumer’s Centre of the German state of North Rhine Westphalia.

Here are some of the key changes:

  • Data security – Facebook says it will make it easier for users to decide who can see information about them and to have more control on information gathered by apps and pages visited through Facebook. Petri notes this will require users to actively turn off some functions if privacy is important to them.
  • Location data – Facebook wants to know more about where users are, so it can send them ads from local businesses and put them in touch with friends who happen to be nearby. To opt out of this function, block Facebook access to your smartphone’s satellite navigation module.
  • Advertising – Ads that show up in a user’s Facebook feed have been based on the individual’s likes and activities within Facebook. Now it wants to gather more information from visited sites and apps by following logged-in users and watching what they do in other parts of the internet. A function to let users rank ads for their relevance could also give the company more ability to target ads.

New functions – New functions like a “buy” button are intended to make shopping easier, link the individual more tightly into the network and provide more information to Facebook.

Users automatically agree to these standards by logging in after January 1. “The user has no option to dispute them,” notes Petri.

The only option would be to stop using the service, if one objects. For those who remain with the service, she recommends at least keeping a close eye on comments and putting privacy settings so the least amount of information possible is available to advertisers. And always be vigilant, she notes.

“You should always check if the settings are still the same as the way you put them.”

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Facebook’s new terms and conditions explained