What You Need To Know About Facebook’s Privacy Policy

Updated June 5, 2018

Facebook's fortunes in recent months have been tied to its controversial storage and use of personal information. While political marketing firm Cambridge Analytica was the organization actually caught misusing targeting data, Facebook's policies have come under fire for enabling such abuse. If you're one of the social platform's millions of users, you likely have some questions and concerns about your own data.

Due to this increased exposure, the release of the clarified Facebook policy in April 2018 was much-scrutinized. It's important to become familiar with this latest update so you can become more familiar with what information Facebook is collecting from you, how it's using that data and what it's doing to keep a Cambridge Analytica-level scandal from erupting again. Based on the latest version of Facebook's data use policy, here are the answers to a few essential questions:

What Information Does Facebook Collect?

As a social network based on creating detailed profiles, a lot of Facebook's data is information you share directly, such as:

  • Anything typed into a field in your Facebook profile. Some countries' laws protect certain subsets of this information, such as health, sexual orientation, political affiliation and religion.
  • Metadata based on when and where you took a photo or created a piece of content.
  • The content of your photos and communications, which are analyzed automatically to provide suggestions.

This information is pooled with other data points, based on the way you use Facebook and its partners' services. That content includes:

  • Which pages and individual accounts you follow and which groups you belong to. If you upload address or communication history data from a device, Facebook also analyzes that to suggest contacts.
  • The timing, duration and patterns of your actions: Using various features, viewing posts, interacting with other users.
  • Device information: from settings and make and model identifiers to behavioral patterns. 
  • Transactional data: if you buy from a Facebook-provided or connected service, your payment information is kept for billing.
  • Content provided by others: fellow Facebook users may tag you in photos or posts, generate comments or upload your contact information for their own accounts.

Additionally, licensed Facebook partners using their own APIs or advertising tools can provide ad viewing and service usage data back to Facebook to tie with your account. When it comes down to pure numbers, Facebook knows a lot about your daily habits.

How Does Facebook Use and Share Data?

Facebook's policies clarify that the information above is to be used for personalizing your notifications. Location data - whether given in general terms or taken from a device GPS - is meant to be used for ad targeting and other automatic customization. Facebook also uses user data to develop new products and perform research, to communicate with users and to detect potential criminal activity.

Advertising and sponsored content are targeted based on an amalgamation of user data. Facebook provides data to its partners to enable them to customize their own offers and ads. Report compilers, researchers and law enforcement agencies may also be recipients of this data. This may include general demographic data based on your age, location and other factors - to use personally identifiable data, Facebook needs user permission.

How Can I Control Facebook's Data Collection and Sharing?

As CNET pointed out, there aren't many ways to actually stop sharing data with Facebook if you want to keep using the service. The main thing you can opt out of is making data public on your profile. That may protect you from other users' prying eyes, but Facebook and its partners keep data access.

Facebook keeps data until it's "no longer necessary" or you delete your account. Different kinds of data expire at different rates, such as search history clearing after six months. Users' Facebook control panels allow earlier or more targeted deletion or editing of personal data.

Using popular service such as Facebook necessitates offering up personal information. To help stay safer online and protect your identity, learn more about what Identity Guard can do for you today

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