November 18, 2013
Facebook users beware: Your posts and likes can be turned into ads shown to your friends and others, depending on your privacy settings.
Facebook announced that it has moved forward with changes to its Data Use Policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, which were first announced in August. By owning a Facebook account, you're allowing the company to use your posts and other personal data for advertising.
Shortly after Facebook revealed the proposed changes to its policies this summer, privacy advocates chastised the social network and petitioned for the FTC to step in and block it. The changes, privacy advocates said, violated Facebook's policies and the 2011 Facebook settlement with the FTC. That settlement stated that the social network deceived consumers by failing to keep privacy promises.
[ Did Facebook break the rules? Read Facebook Policy Changes Draw Privacy Advocates' Ire. ]
Erin Egan, Facebook's chief privacy officer, said in a statement that the social network proposed the changes because it thought it could improve the way it explained its policies. "But your feedback was clear -- we can do better -- and it led to a number of clarifying edits," she said. Here's what you need to know.
Facebook maintains that its update does not change its advertising policies and practices -- it's an update "to clarify language."
When you like a page on Facebook, it creates a story that can be seen on your timeline, in your News Feed, and in Graph Search. Facebook can take this action and pair it with an ad, which is visible to the audience you choose in your privacy settings. For example, if you allow only your friends to see that you have liked a page, only your friends will be able to see the ad that's paired with that story.
If you don't want to see ads tailored to you, you can opt out. To do this, visit your privacy settings page and clicking the "Ads" tab on the left-side menu. Under "Website and Mobile App Custom Audiences" click "Opt out" in the second bullet point. This takes you to a page where you can opt out of social advertising.
Note that this will take effect only for the browser you're currently using. If you use multiple browsers on multiple machines, you will need to set this option again for each one. This setting does not opt you out of seeing ads on Facebook, nor does prevent your actions from being used in social ads.
Your profile picture can be used by Facebook to suggest that your friends tag you in pictures. Here's how Facebook explains the feature:
"After a photo is uploaded it may prompt the question, 'Do you want to tag this photo?' to your friends. If that photo is then tagged, you are notified that a photo of you has been posted so you can check it out. After that, it is up to you what action to take -- for example, you can remove the tag or ask the person who posted the photo to remove it altogether."
To opt out of this feature, visit your Timeline and Tagging page. Click the third option under "How can I manage tags people add and tagging suggestions?" to change it from Friends to No One. The tag suggest feature is not available in all countries, such as the EU, Facebook said.
Facebook and Minors
Facebook originally added a sentence in its policy that said that if you are under the age of 18, you have talked to your parent or guardian and they also agreed to some of Facebook's terms. Facebook has removed this sentence. "This language was about getting a conversation started; we were not seeking and would not have gained any additional rights as a result of this addition," the company said.
In October, Facebook came under fire when it changed its privacy settings to allow teens to post publicly.
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