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Weekend Long Reads: Facebook's New Data Policy

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It’s Friday, and that means you’ll soon get some sleep, wake up refreshed, pour a cup of Joe, and finally read Paul Ford’s 38,000-word article about coding from 2015. But wait, Facebook just stepped in and dropped its new data policy. And now that it’s a full 1,500 words longer, you’re going to want to set aside a little time.

As you’ve probably heard, Facebook is doing a lot of shuffling around in order to give you the impression that it’s cleaning up its act, being more transparent, giving users more control, and generally not being a data privacy nightmare. It’s also doing its best to exhaust you with announcements that no one has the time to scrutinize. The leap from an almost 2,700-word data policy to a “friendlier” nearly 4,200-word policy will surely help with that latter goal.


One area of criticism that Facebook and many others are facing at the moment is that their terms of service and policies are too difficult to understand. With Friday’s release of a longer data policy, Facebook is going a little deeper in its explanations and using clearer language. In the old policy, you’ll find the phrase “for example” used 13 times, this time around, you get 19 examples.

One could argue that Facebook could simplify this whole thing and make their data policy something along the lines of “You own all data that is associated with you, and you can see everything we know about you right here. Let us know if you want us to scrub it.” But that wouldn’t cover the wide net of cookies, partners, outside data purchased about you, inferences made by Facebook’s system, the facial recognition exemptions, or the million other data points the social media company wants to obscure.


So, is the policy clearer now? Well, the reviews are pretty good. The Wall Street Journal says, “Much improved, the new policy actually makes for a read that is finally consumable.” Bustle raves that “this updated version does, as Facebook promised, explicitly lay out some of the concerns users have been expressing.” We’ll say that this all whet our appetite for a real deep dive over the weekend.

Here are 10 of our favorite passages from our first glimpse at this clearer data policy:

  1. “We collect the content, communications and other information you provide when you use our Products...”
  2. “We collect information about the people, Pages, accounts, hashtags and groups you are connected to and how you interact with them across our Products...”
  3. “We also collect contact information...”
  4. “We collect information about how you use our Products...”
  5. “We also receive and analyze content, communications and information that other people provide when they use our Products. This can include information about you...”
  6. “...we collect information from and about the computers, phones, connected TVs and other web-connected devices you use that integrate with our Products, and we combine this information across different devices you use.”
  7. “ provide information about your activities off Facebook—including information about your device, websites you visit, purchases you make, the ads you see, and how you use their services—whether or not you have a Facebook account or are logged into Facebook.”
  8. “Partners receive your data when you visit or use their services or through third parties they work with.”
  9. “You should consider who you choose to share with, because people who can see your activity on our Products can choose to share it with others on and off our Products...”
  10. “When you choose to use third-party apps, websites, or other services that use, or are integrated with, our Products, they can receive information about what you post or share.”