One year after changing its privacy policies, Facebook has updated them once again -- although it is not making any changes to how it shares user information with advertisers. The latest changes will not become final for at least a week, during which users can submit their comments and suggestions to Facebook.
Along with its policy update, Facebook is also rolling out an interactive, graphical guide for users called Privacy Basics. The online tool provides click-by-click details about what types of information users see, what others see when visiting a user's Facebook pages, and how users can manage their interactions with others.
U.S.-based Facebook users who choose to opt out of seeing certain types of advertising will now also be able to do so across all the devices they use to access the site. The social media company is also making its ad preferences tool available in other countries, starting with Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland and the UK.
"We've heard from some of you that it can be difficult to control the types of ads you see if you use multiple devices and browsers," said Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan, writing Thursday in a blog post describing the latest privacy updates. "In the past, if you opted out of certain kinds of advertising on your laptop, that choice may not have been applied for ads on your phone. We know that many people use more than one phone, tablet, or browser to access Facebook, so it should be easy for you to make a single choice that applies across all of your devices."
While Facebook's ad preferences tool -- launched in the U.S. in June -- allows users to opt out of seeing certain types of advertising, it doesn't affect the wide range of information that Facebook collects about such users. The social media company now also gathers information about users from some of the other Web sites and apps they use.
This has raised doubts about how much Facebook's opt-out policies actually allow users to opt out of data gathering about their online habits. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy advocate organization, noted in a blog post last month, "The advertising industry's 'opt out' does not require companies to stop collecting data about you or your reading habits across the Web."
Nearby Friends...and Businesses
In addition to its new Privacy Basics tool, Facebook's latest update is introducing several other new features. For example, Egan noted, Facebook's Nearby Friends feature -- which lets users share information with others about their current location -- may soon be expanded to show menus from restaurants close to the user or updates from friends who are located nearby.
Facebook is also testing a Buy button in some regions that will let users make purchases without leaving the social media site.
The pending privacy updates also include proposed changes to Facebook's terms, data policy and cookies policy. Users can submit their comments and suggestions about these changes over the next seven days.