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Friday, October 30, 2009
Facebook Changes Privacy Policy Again


Facebook outlined changes to its privacy policy on Thursday and asked for feedback from the social network's users.

According to Elliot Schrage, vice president of communications and public policy, Facebook, the primary goals of the new "Privacy policy" proposals is "transparency and readability."

The proposed policy allows Facebook users to change or delete their profile information at any time by going to their profile page and clicking "Edit My Profile." Information will be updated immediately. While users cannot delete their date of birth, they can use the setting on the info tab of their profile information page to hide all or part of it from other users.

If users want to stop using his/her account, they may deactivate it or delete it. When they deactivate an account, no user will be able to see it, but it will not be deleted. Profile information (friends, photos, interests, etc.) are saved in case someone later decide to reactivate his/her account. When users delete an account, it is permanently deleted.

Even after users remove information from their profile or delete their account, copies of that information may remain viewable elsewhere to the extent it has been shared with others, it was otherwise distributed pursuant to their privacy settings, or it was copied or stored by other users. However, their name will no longer be associated with that information on Facebook. (For example, if someone posts something to another user's profile, and then he/she delete his/her account, that post may remain, but be attributed to an "Anonymous Facebook User.")

Removed and deleted information may persist in backup copies for up to 90 days, but will not be available to others, according to the proposed Privacy Policy.

Facebook also has restructured the document ? providing key points and easy links to jump to the different sections. They have added sections further explaining Facebook's current practices and introducing a new concept around Facebook Ads.

In this revision, Facebook "is fulfilling their commitment to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada" to update our privacy policy to better describe a number of practices. Specifically, they have included sections that further explain the privacy setting users can choose to make their content viewable by everyone, the difference between deactivating and deleting their account and the process of memorializing an account once Facebook has received a report that the account holder is deceased.

Facebook also added that the information the web site provides to advertisers is "anonymized," meaning that it can't be traced back to a user as an individual in any way.

Facebook also explained how they might use information from other sites to improve the quality of their ads. This information allows advertisers to do what is commonly called "conversion tracking," which helps them measure the effectiveness of their ads and make them more relevant. Most advertisers already do this in other places on the web. Should Facebook provide this, "we'll continue to respect your privacy by not sharing your information with advertisers, and we'll anonymize any information we receive," Schrage explained.

You can read the proposed update in its entirety and post comments to the Facebook Site Governance Page before the comment period ends at 12:00 p.m. PST on November 5.

Last April, Facebook had launched a new system of governance for the Facebook site and had became the first company that invites users to both comment and vote on proposed changes to its governing policies.

Facebook awarded With $711 million in damages

In related news, a a San Jose, Calif. court awarded Facebook $711 million in damages against Sanford Wallace, one of the spammers who accessed people's accounts without their permission and sent phony Wall posts and messages.

"While we don't expect to receive the vast majority of the award, we hope that this will act as a continued deterrent against these criminals," said Sam O'Rourke from the Facebook legal team.

The judge referred Wallace to the U.S. Attorney's Office with a request that Wallace be prosecuted for criminal contempt, which means that in addition to the judgment, he now faces possible jail time.

"This is another important victory in our fight against spam. We will continue to pursue damages against other spammers," O'Rourke added.

Last March, a court in San Jose, California issued a temporary restraining order against three spammers?Sanford Wallace, Adam Arzoomanian and Scott Shaw. They broke the law by sending unwanted messages and wall posts to people on Facebook, which in the United States violates the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the California Anti-Phishing Act and the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM).

This isn't the first time Facebook has gone to court to battle spam. Last November, the company had announced an $873 million judgment made against Adam Guerbuez and Atlantis Blue Capital for sending sleazy messages to people on Facebook. This was the largest judgment ever for an action brought under CAN-SPAM.


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