Saturday, February 26, 2011

Facebook's Revamped Privacy Policy

Facebook has been formulating a draft of its privacy policy and plan to make the revised privacy policy much simpler. The policy pretty much mirrors the current official privacy policy of Facebook, but it is written in a much more appealing, understandable way.

Right now, the draft policy features the disclaimer: “We're working on communicating about privacy in a simpler, more interactive way. Let us know what you think by commenting here. This isn't our official privacy policy, which can be found here," with a link to the old policy.

"At Facebook, we are constantly developing new experiences and features to help you control your information," Facebook said in a blog post. "Some of our recent work includes simplified privacy settings and publisher privacy controls that let you select your audience every time you post something on Facebook. We plan a lot more innovations in the months ahead so check back from time to time.”

“However, there is more to controlling your information than just settings," the site added. "It's also important that you understand how information is used and what your choices are. That's why the privacy team took on a new project and applied Facebook's unconventional, innovative spirit to develop a new privacy policy written for regular people."

It went on to say that the new policy is being designed to be easily understood, visual and interactive and focus on the real questions that people are most likely to ask.

Facebook now has more than 500 million users. They have to have some kind of understandable privacy policy that clearly states how the site can use the data that more than 250 million users provide each and every day. Early in 2010, when Facebook first attempted to revamp and simplify its privacy policies, was the last time that the site’s policies were under scrutiny. Some privacy groups simply did not think that they did a good job with the process.

However, privacy policies are not the only thing that Facebook has been criticized for.

Back in December, Facebook received a letter from South Korea. The letter claimed that Facebook was doing an “inadequate” job of protecting the privacy of their users. A week or so after Facebook received the letter from South Korea, the U.S. Commerce Department attempted to formulate an online privacy plan that offered guidelines for how online companies should be using their user-supplied data.

One of the Commerce Department’s main recommendations was that there be a clear set of principles that all companies would have to follow when they collected or used any personal information for commercial purposes. The Commerce Department said that these would be like a “Privacy Bill of Rights.” These rights would hopefully help to promote corporate transparency and put clear limits on the use of user data.

So that the situation could be monitored, the Commerce Department suggested that a privacy policy office be created within the department. That office would then work with the White House, other agencies and stakeholders. The agency also was pushing for greater international collaboration so that they could “find practical means of bridging differences in our privacy frameworks."

Facebook sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission and Commerce Department concerning all of their work on online policy. The letter concluded:

"Facebook applauds the commission and the Commerce Department for their work in developing an updated framework for protecting privacy in a way that encourages the growth of innovative new services. We believe that both reports contain the essential principles that, taken together, can serve as the basic building blocks for a meaningful re-evaluation of our approach to privacy in the United States. We also agree with the FTC's observation that any privacy framework must be dynamic. By implementing the principles in a way that accommodate the evolving and often unpredictable privacy norms of the twenty-first century, we can create a framework that is sensitive to the different expectations of privacy users have in different contexts, maximizes users' ability to control their privacy as they see fit, and promotes continued innovation."

So, yeah, the new draft policy that Facebook is working on may look very similar to the old policy, but there are a few changes. The font is larger, and there are now navigation elements that are built in to the policy. The policy also is now accompanied by illustrations that show users what information will be shown according to which settings they choose.

I personally haven’t had any problems with Facebook’s privacy policies, but obviously, some people have. Hopefully the adjustments that they are making will help to fix any problems that have been arising. Until the plan is fully implemented though, I guess we won’t know.

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