Did you see it? The little notification from Facebook that its terms of service are about to change? Did you just click on it to make it go away? Or did you actually read it?
Most people didn’t read it. But that should be no big surprise to you. And as expected, there is a lot of misinformation being spread around virally (in Facebook statuses, no less) to scare people into doing completely ineffective things to try to regain control over data. Given the countless times this has happened before, you’re probably holding your head in sorrow by now. Since you probably didn’t actually read the TOS agreement yourself, it’s worth finding out what is actually going on so that you can protect your privacy on Facebook as best as you can.
Facebook TOS change Jan 1
First things first. Read the plain English run-down of Facebook’s new Terms of Service agreement, which goes into effect on January 1st, and then read the legalese version of the updated Facebook terms. Facebook really has tried to make it easy for you to understand, and have given you a month to agree to it before it comes into effect. However, there are some important passages hidden away in yet another privacy document, which is linked to from the terms.
Here are some scary looking passages:
For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.
When you publish content or information using the Public setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you (i.e., your name and profile picture).
In the event you change or deactivate your mobile telephone number, you will update your account information on Facebook within 48 hours to ensure that your messages are not sent to the person who acquires your old number.
You give us permission to use your name, profile picture, content, and information in connection with commercial, sponsored, or related content (such as a brand you like) served or enhanced by us. This means, for example, that you permit a business or other entity to pay us to display your name and/or profile picture with your content or information, without any compensation to you. If you have selected a specific audience for your content or information, we will respect your choice when we use it.
You understand that we may not always identify paid services and communications as such.
If you violate the letter or spirit of this Statement, or otherwise create risk or possible legal exposure for us, we can stop providing all or part of Facebook to you. We will notify you by email or at the next time you attempt to access your account. You may also delete your account or disable your application at any time.
If you are located in a country embargoed by the United States, or are on the U.S. Treasury Department’s list of Specially Designated Nationals you will not engage in commercial activities on Facebook (such as advertising or payments) or operate a Platform application or website. You will not use Facebook if you are prohibited from receiving products, services, or software originating from the United States.
We receive data from or about the computer, mobile phone, or other devices you use to install Facebook apps or to access Facebook, including when multiple users log in from the same device. This may include network and communication information, such as your IP address or mobile phone number, and other information about things like your internet service, operating system, location, the type (including identifiers) of the device or browser you use, or the pages you visit. For example, we may get your GPS or other location information so we can tell you if any of your friends are nearby, or we could request device information to improve how our apps work on your device.
When we get your GPS location, we put it together with other location information we have about you (like your current city). But we only keep it until it is no longer useful to provide you services, like keeping your last GPS coordinates to send you relevant notifications.
Some of that sounds a little radical, so it’s no wonder the hoaxes have commenced.
False Hope Hoax
As many people falsely believe that these changes mean Facebook owns your media, because they didn’t read or understand the terms, a legalese spiel is being virally propagated.
It won’t work. It doesn’t change anything. Facebook doesn’t own your media. See Snopes for more rebuttals by legal experts and prominent publications.
What The TOS Change Will Mean For You
Well, Facebook doesn’t own your media. You own the copyright to all of your creations.
However, Facebook will be tracking your location even when the app isn’t open, storing that information for as long as it is useful to provide services to you (potentially forever) and giving a generic version of that data to advertisers. This means advertisers will be able to target you with local advertising when you’re in a new city for a vacation. It may even mean hyper-local information about restaurants in your vicinity.
One day, this may even mean push notifications from advertisers wanting to let you know about deals in your exact location. It seems like no big deal, but in reality this is giving Facebook the right to store a lot of data about you. It’s very likely that it will be handed over to authorities if demanded, too, but the authorities could probably get that information from your phone provider anyway.
In the meantime, Facebook gets richer.
— Angela Alcorn (@AngelaAlcorn) December 7, 2014
What Else Is New?
A refreshing thing to note about all these changes is that Facebook is going to homogenise the adverts you see, so if you set advert preferences on one device it will carry over to your other devices. You can also set advertising preferences with the Digital Advertising Alliance and with similar tools for members of certain countries.
What Can You Do About It?
If you do not agree with these terms, the only thing you can really do is stop using Facebook. This will mean deleting the Facebook apps from all of your devices, not using Facebook login anywhere, and deleting your apps on Facebook to be sure you won’t accidentally log in when you play a linked game.
You can also attempt to lobby Facebook via their Facebook Site Governance section, or attempt to negotiate terms with Facebook on your own. This is unlikely to be very effective.
Lastly, you can delete your account. However, as you’ve already agreed to certain terms this won’t let you reclaim any rights. Certainly, deleting your account after January 1st will be too late for these changes.
What Will You Do?
Will you stop using Facebook due to these new changes? Did you stop using Facebook a long time ago (or have you never used it)? Or are you happy to accept this new intrusion into your lives?