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Everything you need to know about Facebook’s reasserted right to use your content in ads

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In case you totally missed Facebook’s earlier court-mandated policy revisions that clarified how ads use your personal data on the social network, here’s a brand-new update: Facebook can definitely use your personal data for ads.

On Friday, Facebook reasserted in an announcement the changes made to its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and Data Use Policy documents back in August, using blunt and straightforward language: Basically if you have an account on Facebook, you are giving them free reign to use your content – posts, activities, pertinent profile information, everything – for advertising purposes.

These policy changes affected teenage users in a big way, stating that any user under the age of 18 are automatically assumed to have parental consent to join the site. It means that their names, profile photos, and other Facebook content are free for use, much to the chagrin of concerned parents and various advocacy groups. And while their petitions were heard and examined by the Federal Trade Commission – Facebook even promised to run their policies through more edits, based on the feedback they’ve received from users – not much has changed in the final draft of the legal documents.

In a nutshell, here’s what changed since the last time we reported about Facebook’s policy overhaul:

  • Using Facebook posts as advertising vehicles – according to the new policy language – is comparable to how users are able to keep track of their friends’ activities (shares, comments, profile photo changes, etc …) on the site. In short, your Likes and location check-ins are easily transformed into ads/endorsements – once you like something or check into a place, your friends will be able to see your activity alongside an ad for the page, in either your Timeline, News Feed, or through Graph Search.
facebook like ad
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  • The user can still sort of control who sees these Like-generated ads, by limiting the audience for their activities through Settings. And apparently you can also opt out of the whole thing, which they’re calling “social advertising.”
facebook social ad opt out
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  • Your profile pictures will now be used to improve Facebook’s tag suggest feature, and the more you use the function, the more it will recognize you and your friends’ faces better. According to Facebook, this feature is not meant to be stalker-creepy, but rather about “increasing your control and awareness of information about you.” You can always remove tags later on, right? Some countries don’t even have the tag suggest tool, so this update does not affect them.
  • Facebook maintains that you own the content you post on Facebook (including photos) and that they won’t share your private posts with anyone without explicit permission. It’s totally your fault if you fail to lock down those permissions.
  • Remember that vague and confusing sentence stating users under the age of 18 are assumed to be parentally allowed on Facebook? It seems like it’s been omitted, and Facebook explains that this update was never about trampling on teenage rights but rather about “getting a conversation started” between parent and child. “We were not seeking and would not have gained any additional rights as a result of this addition. We received feedback, though, that the language was confusing and so we removed the sentence,” Erin Egan, Chief Privacy Officer for Policy wrote in a blog post.

While these policy updates do not affect the recent change allowing teens to post publicly on Facebook, they do seem to suggest the notion that more publicly shared data means a better experience on the social network. The effectiveness of Facebook’s Graph Search, facial recognition, and hopefully the News Feed all seem to depend on the amount of data you allow Facebook to use on your behalf, and any user dependent on the site may consider going whole hog on the sharing just for this purpose. Of course, the fact that this gives Facebook more leverage on content that’s convertible to advertisements is just an added perk.

These updates are all part of a class-action suit settlement. Other updates guaranteed but have not been implemented and released by Facebook include a way for parents to control the use of their children’s information as well as a way for users to find out if any of their activities have been used as ads. A Facebook spokesperson told The New York Times that these tools will take time to build and offered no timeline for their actual development.

Jam Kotenko
Former Digital Trends Contributor
When she's not busy watching movies and TV shows or traveling to new places, Jam is probably on Facebook. Or Twitter. Or…
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