Facebook Privacy Policy Changes Should be of Interest

December 1, 2015 |

Back in November, Facebook announced that as of Jan 1st 2015 it will be updating its terms and conditions and privacy policy again. It does this regularly, and it always causes the usual flurry of grumbling and mumbling from disgruntled patrons. Facebook collects a couple of types of information: personal details we type in ourselves and usage data collected automatically as we spend our time on the Internet doing our day-to-day surfing around. This time around (and with an eye to the future of business on the platform) it’s particularly peaked my interest.

Arguably the most important of these changes is the introduction of ‘Privacy Basics’, a simple database of how-to’s for all the security and privacy options across Facebook, from basic interface customisation to untagging oneself from those unflattering ‘double-chin’ pics. Also watch out for reminders when we go to post things publicly: “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.” These are all things already out there, but the Privacy Basics database will pull them all into one place and give users all the info on how to use them to the full. So, why is this good for business?

Of late Facebook user numbers, while far from slumping, have been suffering from slower growth. A percentage of this is down to security and privacy concerns by the user base, and Privacy Basics is part of Facebook’s way of reassuring the users and putting some confidence back into the platform. The better the confidence, the more users. The more users (especially those willing to share their data) the better for business and the long-term stability of the platform. Giving users the ability to alter their ad profiles gives them more visible control over their surface interactions with Big Data.

The most exciting change, for me, is that we’ll also be asked to opt into – or out of Facebook entirely, the default of allowing Facebook and third party applications to collect our location data. The new Privacy Policy states clearly that Facebook will gather location data from all devices it’s installed on, via GPS, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. We’ll be able to deactivate bits of the site if we don’t want to use them, but this will probably disable our access to other functionality. To make things more transparent, Facebook will be utilising more opt-in systems, rather than opt-out systems so that we’ll know when our data is being collected and used. I’ll be opting in.

Imagine if advertising can target us by location. Imagine if our client The Cornerhouse (a prominent Nottingham leisure venue) could, without the use of iBeacons, etc. target you as you came into the vicinity? It could notify you: “Hi Nik, based on your preferences we know you like good food and the odd whisky, did you know Rocket@Saltwater has a deal on today?” Ads like this are only poor and intrusive if they don’t target you correctly. If we give our data freely, they will.

This is the beginning of the true semantic web where good quality information that’s relevant to us will find us, without the necessity for us to go looking for it.

Interestingly, and apparently unavoidably, Facebook also now states that when you make a purchase via a Facebook app, even a third-party app, it will collect your payment information. While the motivations behind this aren’t immediately obvious, this will be part of the platform’s future proofing and streamlining of the experience. It’s possible Facebook is considering spreading its wings beyond making money from just advertising, and is considering how it can sell products to users or facilitating payments between us and our friends.

Let’s hope Privacy Basics gives people the reassurance that control over some of the ads that the platform is displaying, isn’t outweighed by things like the collection of payment information which are (on the surface at least) somewhat off-putting. If there’s not a bit of a stink when this hits the media on January 1, I’ll be surprised. That said, they can probably afford decent PR!