Facebook Posts First Stab at Simpler Privacy Policy

Today's Best Tech Deals

Picked by PCWorld's Editors

Top Deals On Great Products

Picked by Techconnect's Editors

Facebook's convoluted and labyrinthine privacy policy has long been skewered by critics, many of whom have slammed the world's largest online social network for its eagerness to share the personal information of its members without their knowledge. Part of the problem has been the site's perplexing and lengthy privacy document, which few users bother to read. Now Facebook is hoping to repair its bad reputation by crafting a new privacy policy that regular folks can understand.

"Many websites' privacy policies are challenging for people to understand because they are often written for regulators and privacy advocates, not the majority of people who actually use those websites," reads a Friday post on the Facebook Site Governance blog.

"Our own privacy policy has been criticized as being '5830 words of legalese' and 'longer than the U.S. constitution - without the amendments.' Okay, you're right. We agree that privacy policies can and should be more easily understood, and that inspired us to try something different," it adds.

Goodbye Gobbledygook?

"Something different," in this case, is Facebook's first attempt at a less complicated privacy policy, a work in progress that's now online for public comment. The goal is to present a more Web-friendly document; one's that interactive and divided into easy-to-view info-packets.

Compare for instance, the uninviting introduction of the current privacy policy...

...versus that of the proposed new policy:

From a visual standpoint, obviously, the new version is more appealing. While the substance of Facebook's privacy policy is unchanged, the wording is simpler too. Compare, for instance, the old vs. new explanations for what it means to share your Facebook information with "everyone."

[Click to Zoom]
Old (in tiny print): "Information set to "everyone" is publicly available information, just like your name, profile picture, and connections. Such information may, for example, be accessed by everyone on the Internet (including people not logged into Facebook), be indexed by third party search engines, and be imported, exported, distributed, and redistributed by us and others without privacy limitations. Such information may also be associated with you, including your name and profile picture, even outside of Facebook, such as on public search engines and when you visit other sites on the internet. The default privacy setting for certain types of information you post on Facebook is set to "everyone." You can review and change the default settings in your privacy settings. If you delete "everyone" content that you posted on Facebook, we will remove it from your Facebook profile, but have no control over its use outside of Facebook."

And the new wording: "Choosing to share your information with Everyone is exactly what it sounds like: anyone, including people off of Facebook, will be able to see it."

The new section continues with bullets--and considerably less legalese--to convey the salient points.

The enhancements are certainly welcome. But will most members read the revised privacy policy? Probably not. However, those who do will have a much easier time doing so.

How About More Protection?

As some Facebook users have already pointed out in the comments section of the proposed privacy policy page, the changes don't address many of the gripes that members have about the site's current private rules.

"What I would like to see is a description of what happens when you delete your own posts, messages, photos, and other information. Are they really deleted? Or are they 'archived?' I would prefer that they disappear from the server entirely (I realize they would still exist in backups)," writes Gail Hunn.

And Jaymie Zalameda - Alviar writes: "I do hope you could come up on how to protect my pictures from being 'tagged' by others. That approval of the owner should be required before others tag it..."

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci ) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com .

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon