Facebook's Privacy Policy is History

Category: Privacy

Facebook promised sweeping changes to its privacy policy in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Mark Zuckerberg spent hours testifying before Congress about his company’s commitment to protecting users’ data and being transparent with them about what data Facebook collects and how it is used. Users were given a whole week to file comments on a draft version of a new privacy policy. Now that the final version is published, it turns out there is no privacy policy. Instead there's something called a Data Policy. Here's what you need to know...

Privacy Policy = Data Policy?

The emphasis has been removed from the hypersensitive issue of users’ privacy by changing “privacy policy” to “data policy.” (But note that the URL still is “about/privacy/”) “Data” is not a word that gets people’s emotions stirred up. There’s nothing personal about it.

Seriously, this is how the “geniuses” at Facebook and other Silicon Valley geek hives think! Of course, that thought is not true if the data is about your finances, health, religion, politics, where you are, where you go (online or offline), what you buy, etc.

Your privacy isn’t even mentioned in the Data Policy’s introduction: “This policy describes the information we process to support Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and other products and features offered by Facebook…” Apparently, poor Zuck is tired of everybody else whining about their privacy needs and now wishes to talk about his needs for your data. And talk he does, at tedious length.

Things start to get interesting for privacy seekers in Data Policy section 5, “How can I manage or delete information about me?”

Facebook's Data/Privacy Policy

Here we learn that when you delete your Facebook account, everything that you have posted actually gets erased. There is also a “deactivate account” option, which retains all of your data in case you ever want to return to Facebook. In the past, Facebook was criticized for telling users they were “deleting” their accounts when, in fact, the accounts were merely deactivated temporarily. That “misunderstanding” seems to be corrected now.

Your search queries in Facebook’s search function can be deleted from your browser history, but Facebook’s logs of your queries persist for six months. Such logs are Facebook’s property, created by it not you, so the 4th Amendment does not protect users against warrantless searches and seizures. Facebook can and does voluntarily share its own data about specified users with law enforcement, but only to prevent imminent harm such as a murder, suicide, mass shooting, etc. Generally, Facebook will require a search warrant, subpoena, or other court order before turning over its records of users’ activity.

If Facebook makes you upload a scan of your driver’s license or other documents to verify your identity, that image gets deleted after 30 days. But whether the biometric data that can be extracted from a facial photo is retained and added to Facebook’s facial recognition database is unclarified. Such data includes measurements of distances between facial landmarks, i. e., between eye pupils, between ends of lips, nose to chin, etc.

Facebook claims that its logs of your activity on Facebook are the company’s property and do not need to be deleted at your request. Biometric data derived from scanned images may also be company property. It’s questionable whether there is a practical difference between keeping your facial image and keeping its biometric data; either can be used to identify you.

Data, Big Data, and More Data

“Data! Data! Data!” he cried impatiently. “I can't make bricks without clay.” Sherlock Holmes, the fictional detective created by Arthur Conan Doyle, understood the value of data. And so does Facebook.

Facebook collects every scrap of data about you that it can, even posts or messages that you begin but decide not to finish. Your current location and past travels are collected, even if you have location services and GPS disabled on your mobile device; your carrier has to know where you are at all times to provide service, and all four major carriers sell that data to anyone who will pay, we learned just last week. (See my article Everyone Knows Where You Are for that story.) Facebook can afford to pay, and its greed for data about you is insatiable.

Data about you may come from other sites that use Facebook as a registration authentication option, or that employ the “like us on Facebook” button provided by Facebook. Even if you avoid registering with your Facebook account or clicking on the “like us” button, Facebook still gets the data that you were on a given page of a given site. Finally, Facebook buys data about what you do offline from data brokers, even if you have never had a Facebook account!

In other words, Facebook is the nosiest neighbor that everyone in the world has ever had.

What Facebook does with all this data about us is also explained in the Data Policy. Innocuous uses like “product research and development” are side-by-side with creepy things like “face recognition.” Of course, the overarching use of all data collected by Facebook is “to sell more ads to advertisers.”

Facebook will not provide an advertiser with your personally identifiable information such as name, address, phone number, Social Security Number, etc. Facebook can profit only by remaining an intermediary between you and advertisers. So advertisers get to specify the demographics of the people they want to reach with their ads, and Facebook makes sure those people see the ads. Advertisers only learn who saw the ads if and when viewers respond to them.

But Wait... There's More!

If that was all Facebook did with the data it collects, we might be able to live with it. After all, in exchange for our data we get free stuff, and lots of it. (Too much, many are starting to realize.) We get communications with loved ones and like-minded people worldwide, business opportunities and endless new things to buy, useful information and mindless entertainment, and more. But matching ads with audiences is not all that Facebook does.

App and game developers get access to data about you and your friends when you download, play, or otherwise interact with such software products. Facebook says it’s entirely up to you whether you share your list of friends with an app. But we know that nefarious scammers are adept at social engineering - wheedling such permissions from users of all online communications media. The fact that it’s possible to give up your friends to an app is the fundamental reason so many malware infections and account hijackings sweep through Facebook like wildfire.

Facebook says in its new Data Policy: “We are in the process of restricting developers’ data access even further to help prevent abuse. For example, we will remove developers' access to your Facebook and Instagram data if you haven't used their app in 3 months, and we are changing Login, so that in the next version, we will reduce the data that an app can request without app review to include only name, Instagram username and bio, profile photo and email address. Requesting any other data will require our approval.”

It’s scary to wonder what else apps were able to access without being vetted by anyone right now and in the past 14 years since Facebook was founded.

It's All Academic

Sometimes it’s the shortest explanations that set off my loudest alarms. Here’s a good example: “We share information about you with companies that aggregate it to provide analytics and measurement reports to our partners.” That’s all Facebook has to say about its “measurement partners.”

To me, it says these anonymous companies get my personally identifiable information and then aggregate it into databases that do not contain personally identifiable information. But who are these measurement companies? What are their security capabilities? Where are their privacy policies? What else are they doing with my personally identifiable information? If the answers to these questions boded well for Facebook, I’m sure they would be right there after the sentence I quoted.

“Researchers and academics” are another group that gets access to our data. Remember, the Cambridge Analytica scandal started with an academic researcher who vastly exceeded the amount and kinds of data that Facebook thought he was collecting. Researchers need adult supervision, too.

There are endless points to ponder in Facebook’s new Data Policy. The biggest takeaway, for me, is that privacy is no longer worth talking about, according to this Data Policy. Your data is out there in Facebook’s hands, and it is going to be used. You only get to know how it’s being used, and probably not all of that story. Resistance is futile. Or is it?

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Facebook's Privacy Policy is History"

(See all 24 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Charles James Eisterhold
31 May 2018

Bob: I guess our wonderful leadership in DC is done looking or having anymore talks with Zuckerberg regarding privacy issues?


Posted by:

Wild Bill
31 May 2018

Doesn't sound like the data policy squares well with
the EU rules on opt-in vs. opt-out. Or do Euro-users get a different agreement?


Posted by:

rob
31 May 2018

I have never been on Facebook or any other "social media".
In actuality, with all the things that happen on these so-called services, they are really "anti=social media". They say they are providing a service in exchange for your data. It is not an equal exchange. The user gets a frivolity compared to the value of the user data! It is a delusion to think they exist for the user's benefit. They exist so that the people who own and operate them can satisfy their lust for wealth and power.


Posted by:

Rob
31 May 2018

Thanks FB for proving categorically that you cannot be trusted. I have now finally deleted my account. I have also realized that nothing bad happens by leaving the GPS permanently turned off on my phone and now I only turn it on occasionally when I am lost. In fact, most of the time now I leave my phone in airplane mode and only check in when it suits me. Just had to let my key contacts know I am no longer tethered.

Words can't describe the sense of emancipation this has given me. Who knew that the current FB debacle could have such a silver lining!


Posted by:

Robert Beveridge
31 May 2018

BIG Brother "is" watching you!!! and can IT keep your data safe from your government or indeed the Russian and Chinese governments?
It's Orwell's 1984 science fiction coming true


Posted by:

David Hakala
31 May 2018

Zuckerberg started Facebook by taking his classmates' faces and other data without asking permission. He should have been sued into oblivion right then.


Posted by:

Robert Beveridge
31 May 2018

BIG Brother "is" watching you!!! and can IT keep your data safe from your government or indeed the Russian and Chinese governments?
It's Orwell's 1984 science fiction coming true


Posted by:

Mark H.
31 May 2018

What is Facebook? What's Twitter? Seriously, I've felt no need to use any social media platform. E-mail and telephone still works for me. Heck, on occasion I even use the U.S. Postal Service. It's not that I'm antisocial, I just consider social media a waste of time.


Posted by:

James Earl Ford
31 May 2018

The display of your web page is as bad as Facebooks idea of privacy. There are almost more ads than article content, thus making it almost impossible to read. I am definitely unsubscribing!!!


Posted by:

MauraK
31 May 2018

The price we pay for using the internet is that there is no guarantee of privacy or security of information anywhere. Even if one doesn't use the internet (or any social media), our info is collected when we bank, shop, get medical care, hold a job, etc. And as we've seen all too often, places that should hold our info securely - don't!


Posted by:

Ed
31 May 2018

I joined Facebook quite a few years ago when I wanted to get messages to and from a relative in Norway. Haven't used it since but recently looked at closing the my account - Facebook said to go to a "deletions" page - can't find it. All other ways to delete the account were not connected directly to Facebook - it looks as though some want to get paid for doing this. So now I've just classed Facebook mail as "Junk" so at least I don't see it anymore.


Posted by:

Bob Deloyd
31 May 2018

I don't really fear FB with my data as much as the Giant Equifax data breach of 143 million people personal info on the Dark Web like driver's license, SSN, credit worthiness and history. With all this info fro Equifax someone can get credit in your name and ruin your life. I had to freeze Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion because I was on of the 143 million. All this hype about FB is small potatoes compared to Equifax. The only reason FB is being made the fall guy is strictly political and blocking and fading from the news the real problem that is the Equifax scandal...
Go wear your tin hats and get the hell off of FaceBook... Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion you can't unfriend, and they have and know everything about you.


Posted by:

Butch
31 May 2018

A few years back a friend told me that he saw me on Facebook one day. I've never been involved with Facebook, etc. Which makes me wonder just how much info *they* have about *me*- a non-FB junkie?

I am really afraid to even think about this.

I asked the young lady how she could have thought to post my image to FB without asking me first what I thought. "You" are no longer your own property.


Posted by:

James
01 Jun 2018

Problem with the Congress and like governing bodies, is they really don't fully understand the power of the new, fangled, technology thingies, and just go about their business (whatever that is), after staging hearings on this or other like subjects, that they really don't understand. Really, when you don't know how to set a watch, it'll keep recording the same time, time after time, after time.


Posted by:

RandiO
01 Jun 2018

Your contention is "In other words, Facebook is the nosiest neighbor that everyone in the world has ever had." I am inclined to think that the real 600# gorilla is the Google data mining operations... I wait for the day that you can similarly expose Google. It appears no one wants to really discuss the real 'data beast'!


Posted by:

Esther G.
01 Jun 2018

I used "social media" 40 years ago . . . I wrote a letter with a pen on a piece of paper and mailed it to somebody.


Posted by:

Sara Cleveland
01 Jun 2018

I use Facebook rarely, mainly to reply to messages. I remember Scott McNealy, a founder of Sun Microsystems, saying many years ago that we no longer had expectations of privacy and to get over it. I don't know that I have gotten over it but I do know that everything about me is in some data base and there's not much I can do about it.


Posted by:

SharonH
01 Jun 2018

The only reason I remain on Facebook is to follow my niece's softball games. They have a website but it is never up-to-date. Other than that, I would have pitched FB long ago.

What hasn't been addressed beyond these privacy issues is, in my opinion, Facebook's use of psychological testing and crowd manipulation, but that is an issue for another day. The bottom line is that the privacy problem is only one of other just plain creepy practices of these social media outlets. And no, I'm not paranoid, just someone in the psych field who has been observing Facebook for quite some time.


Posted by:

Greg
01 Jun 2018

As soon as I got a SS# they had me. I love FB for allowing me to regain and maintain contact with people I had lost they time. Had a computer since they got small enough to fit a desk. The Banks,CU, Credit reporters ect have always had your data. Don’t put anything on any device you don’t want the world to know. If someone steals your ID the banks and gov. Should prosecute. Tks


Posted by:

Gloria Huffman
01 Jun 2018

Bob, have you looked into WeMe.com? I signed up with them, but haven't used the site much because my family and friends are on Facebook. I keep thinking they could be as good as they say they are: "facebook" without the hassles or weirdness.


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