Facebook has had a target on its back since the day advertising was introduced to the site. Users were often confused about what types of advertising products they should and shouldn’t have to worry about, and what concerns they should have when uploading personal information to Facebook. Today, Facebook is becoming more transparent about its target advertising practices and other privacy concerns with modules on its sign-up pages to educate new users while creating an account on Facebook.
Facebook is a service provided to us for free, and monetizing user data has been a profitable endeavor for the social network, but it hasn’t come without backlash. The constant scrutiny has resulted in class action lawsuits in the United States and other countries around the world. Facebook has been embroiled in a lawsuit over Sponsored Stories, which use profile images to act as “sponsors” of a brand. But Facebook hasn’t backed down from using Sponsored Stories; the social network even continues to encourage the service among potential advertisers. When we stopped by Socialbaker’s Engage 2012 Conference in New York City, Facebook’s Product Marketing Manager, Helen Yin discussed how Sponsored Stories was a great way to leverage its users’ influence to get ad clicks.
Despite its stubbornness to change its advertising practices, to its credit the company has been making an active effort to educate its users about their privacy on Facebook. Last year Facebook added inline controls to provide its users with easy-to-access tools for controlling the visibility of shared content. Users didn’t have to dig through pages and pages to change who you wanted to share your Timeline updates with, and were even able to approve or reject photos users were tagged in before being published.
Today’s update now educates users signing up for a new Facebook account on the following:
- Default settings
- Selecting an audience for information shared on Timeline
- Access to their data
- How they interact with applications, games, and websites
- How ads works on the site
- Tagging people and things
- Finding friends on Facebook through search and contact importers
Accompanying the addition of these educational modules during the sign-up process, new users can control the audience that’s able to see where they went to high school, college, and where they work through the addition of in-line privacy controls. This feature is also available not only to new users, but existing users as well.
In a statement provided to Digital Trends, Erin Egan, Chief Privacy Officer at Facebook explains the update. “At Facebook, we’re committed to making sure people understand how to control what they share and with whom. We’re pleased to be rolling out more prominent and detailed privacy information to new users as soon as they begin the account sign-up process and we appreciate the guidance we’ve received from the Irish Data Protection Commissioner’s Office as we strive to highlight the many resources and tools we offer to help people control their information on Facebook.”
The Irish Data Protection Commissioner’s Office is responsible for regulating European privacy laws and for forcing Facebook to shut off its facial recognition technology in Europe. The committee also regularly audits Facebook’s privacy policies and controls and has been responsible for requiring more transparency from the social network.
Of course if you’re worried about your information floating about in public sight, or Facebook selling your data to marketers, the best solution is to avoid publishing any content or private information that you wouldn’t want to share with anyone else. These measures by Facebook are a means of educating users, and by no means a fool-proof way to avoid having your privacy tampered with.