Digital/Online Marketing Communications Strategy

Facebook Privacy Policy: Beware Changes In The Fine Print

By on March 30, 2010 in Facebook with 0 Comments

You’ve heard it’s important to read the fine print of a contract, right?

That’s where there’s a bunch of exceptions and other terms required in the interest of full disclosure, but you likely wouldn’t sign the contract if you read and understood them in full, hence the small print treatment.

It’s only when you have a problem you find out, whoops, there’s something in the fine print about that; and odds are, what it says is not in your favor.

More fine print to Facebook’s privacy policy

Recent revisions to the Facebook privacy policy, announced March 26, 2010, on the Facebook blog in the article Another Step In Open Site Governance, are of similar ilk.

The post’s title implies they’re being transparent. However, if the revised policy is written so that it’s difficult for users to determine the true implications, then it’s the digital equivalent of fine print.

A CYA tactic

The post begins by saying Facebook wants to publicize “all proposed changes to our governing documents before they go into effect and solicit feedback on these proposals from the people who use Facebook.”

FYI, they’re not doing this just to be nice. It’s to avoid another fiasco as happened with the site’s now-deceased Beacon system, which inspired angry member backlash, bad publicity and a lawsuit. In other words, it’s to protect their derrières.

The new policy is to share general data with “select” third parties

There are numerous proposed changes to the Facebook privacy policy, however, one that sticks out as, an “Uh oh, better take note of this” pertains to applications and third-party websites. It would appear Facebook, in language that is not exactly simple and/or direct, wants to share members’ general information — you and your friend’s names, connections, pictures, gender and any content where a privacy setting for sharing is “everyone” — with other websites.

Facebook says the change is being made “to offer a more personalized experience at the moment you visit the site.”

So no worries, it’s for your own good.

The changes are automatic opt-in. Should you prefer to keep general info private, you must make the effort to opt-out.

Member discontent over policy change

Based on comments to the blog post, it looks like this new policy is going over like a lead balloon.

That’s not surprising and is another reason the site is telling everyone what’s going to happen. It’s a common tactic: Let people vent so they can feel like they’re heard, and make the change anyway.

If the true beneficiaries of this revised policy are Facebook and its advertisers — well, that’s just how it goes. Facebook is free. If we don’t like it we can just leave, right?

Are the words privacy and web mutually exclusive?

Perhaps this is just another turn along the inevitable path leading to the point where the words privacy and web are mutually exclusive.

Maybe so, but we’re not quite there yet.

And even if it doesn’t ultimately change the outcome, should you care to voice an opinion on the matter to Facebook, feel free to add to the 2,000+ comments already left on the blog post announcing these impending changes.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think? Are Facebook’s latest privacy changes really the equivalent of fine print? Comments welcome.

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About the Author

About the Author: Deni Kasrel is seasoned (slightly spicy) specialist in digital/online communications. .

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