Facebook spells out data use from mouse clicks to metadata in policy update

Just what data does Facebook collect on you, exactly? Facebook is now spelling it out “in black and white” with proposed updates to the data policy and terms of service. The company says the update doesn’t change rights or data access but aims to make the data use more transparent and easier to understand. Facebook is taking feedback on the proposed updates for the next seven days before finalizing the policies. The change comes after Facebook added a tool for mass-deletion of third-party app access.

Facebook users downloading and sifting through their own data after Cambridge Analytica were surprised to find the network tracked calls and texts. The updated data policy aims to take out that element of surprise (for users that actually read them anyway) by spelling out what data the network collects.

The data policy draft is divided into sections based on common user questions about privacy, like what information the company collects, and how that information is used and shared. The new data policy spells out that, yes, when you sync a contact list or call log, Facebook has access to that call log. Facebook will also track how long you spend on the platform and how often you log in; the people, Pages, and hashtags you interact with, and payment information when making a transaction such as a game purchase or a donation. Facebook can even track your mouse movements, though the network says this tool is used to determine if you’re human or bot. 

Data isn’t limited to what you share either — “We also receive and analyze content, communications, and information that other people provide when they use our Products.” For example, Facebook may track a comment that someone makes on a photo of you in your profile, or sync your contact information if a friend syncs their contacts with Facebook.

Facebook can gather metadata from photos to find the date and location, on a GPS-enabled device, of the image. The policy also says that the data may “also include what you see through the features we provide, such as our camera” — access that allows Facebook Camera to recommend masks and filters, according to the drafted policy.

The data policy update also details data collected from the device itself, including cookies stored on the device, the types of devices you log in on and how much battery or signal you have. Another section details that advertisers may also bring data collected into Facebook, such as information about a previous purchase.

Facebook stresses that the updated data policy only has updated language — the company isn’t changing the data that it collects, but is working to make that data collection clearer.

The proposed terms of service detail both Facebook’s services and data use along with community guidelines on who can use Facebook, and what can and cannot be shared. The update also covers features launched since the last update, including Marketplace, fundraising, and Live video. Messenger and Instagram will follow the same data policies and the terms of use also spell out how data is shared with Facebook-owned Oculus and WhatsApp.

Both the data policy and the terms of service also use more than a language update, with larger text and shortcuts to navigate to different sections. Facebook is welcoming user feedback over the next week with an online comment forum.