Facebook Data Policy

In this article, Amruta D. G discusses 10 Things to know about Facebook’s New Data Policy.

After the controversial Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, where the personal data of over 87 million Facebook users was shared with the Cambridge Analytica, there was a steep downfall in the popularity and the shares of Facebook worldwide. In light of such events, to regain the popular user base and shares in the market, facebook has introduced the new data policy.

Facebook is a social networking and service company, which has purchased various services. Facebook products include facebook itself, instagram, whatsapp, messenger etc. Facebook collects your data, not only from Facebook but across all the Facebook products.

In today’s time, where even “deewaron ke bhi kaan hote hain”, i.e., even walls have ears, how safe you think you are with the information you share on Facebook? Here are the 10 things you must know about Facebook’s new data policy.

Kinds of data collected by Facebook

Activities and Information shared by you

  1. Did you just shared a secret with your friend?

Facebook collects the data of all the activities and information shared by you on the facebook products including all the details given by you while you sign up, or the content of the message you send and even the location of a photo or the date a file was created that you shared.

Facebook has an eye on all your activities, which features you use most, which pages and hashtags you visit, with which groups and people you are connected with and if you have uploaded your contact details on messenger, then facebook even has the access to your sms, call log history, address book.

Have you ever engaged in a financial transaction on any of facebook products, like purchasing energy bars while playing a game on facebook or giving a donation? Facebook keeps a record of your card information, account authentication, billing and delivery details and the contact details while you make such transaction.

Information shared by others

Facebook also collects and analyses the data shared by others about you, like, your contact details uploaded or synced by others, or message sent to you or any comment made on your post.

Device information

Facebook collects the information about the device from which you are using facebook and all nearby devices connected to such device. The information is about:

    1. Operating system of your device
    2. Hardware and software versions
    3. Battery left
    4. Signals strength on your device, bluetooth signals, nearby WiFi network
    5. available storage space
    6. browser type,
    7. app and file names and types,
    8. Plugins
    9. IP address, mobile number, time zone, language
    10. Cookies stored on your device, including cookie IDs and settings

In addition to all these information, facebook also keeps a track of behaviour and operations performed on the device such as if any window is opened in the background or even, where the mouse cursor is moving.

Are you wondering about a pop up that shows up when you open facebook seeking permission and asking for some changes in settings menu? The pop up only asks for permission for access to certain features like GPS, camera and photos. For the rest of the things mentioned above, your permission is implied.

Non- Facebook users and off- Facebook activities

If you are wondering that only information shared across facebook products are under facebook’s control, then you are wrong. All the information (off facebook) received by the partners directly or through third party is provided to the facebook, like, information about your device, websites you visit, purchases you make, the ads you see and how you use their services, irrespective of whether you have facebook account or not.

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Now next important question is, how this information is used?

Majorly, facebook uses this information to:

    1. Give you suggestions, relevant news feed and advertisements: Have you ever noticed that how come the newsfeed of facebook or instagram is very similar to your likes, or how the ads on the facebook products are so accurate? Facebook, as it says, collects and analyzes the data in order to personalize your experience with facebook products.
    2. The collected data is researched upon to improve the products: have you wondered why some popular filters on instagram camera are constant and others, not so liked, keep changing? And how the Instagram also incorporated gif feature like WhatsApp?
    3. Facebook shares the information with advertisers and sponsors so that they can test the effectiveness, distribution of their ads and services, what kind of users access them.

In what manner your information is shared?

The data is shared or transferred globally, whether it may be internally within the facebook companies, or externally with its partners. Data can be shared in following manner:

    1. You choose: You choose the audience which can see the information you shared, you can either choose public or friends or friends of friends or only me. Information open to public can be seen across the products, without any restrictions, by anyone.  If you choose to share it with a specific audience, but someone among the specific audience reshares it publically, then again such shared post will have same effect as a public post, even if it was only for a specific audience initially.
      1. People in your network, based upon the access to you network, can know whether you are active or not, including whether active on instagram and messenger. When you are using third party apps, services or websites which use or are integrated with facebook’s products, then such third parties can receive information about what you post or share.
    2. Sharing with Third Party partners: facebook shares the data with the third-party partners who help us provide and improve our Products or who use Facebook Business Tools to grow their businesses. Facebook emphasizes that it do not sell its data, but only share, that also with certain restrictions and in specific manner. For example:
      1. To Partners who use facebook’s analytics services, are provided aggregated statistics and insights that help people and businesses understand how people are engaging with their posts, listings, Pages, videos and other content on and off the Facebook Products.
      2. To advertisers the reports about the kinds of people seeing their ads and how their ads are performing, but we don’t share information that personally identifies you unless the permission for the same is given.
      3. Detailed information and content is given to research, academicis, vendors and service provider.
      4. Facebook, in its policy tried to explain that not all personal information is given, but it is provided according to the needs of the third party.
    3. Shared with regulators, law enforcement or others in legal matters:
      1. when there is a legal request or obligation, governmental investigation or investigations of possible violations of our terms or policies, or otherwise to prevent harm is made.
      2. In good-faith that it is necessary to: detect, prevent and address fraud, unauthorised use of the Products, breaches of our Terms or Policies, or other harmful or illegal activity.
      3. Information of the accounts who are disabled for term breaches for at least a year are retained to prevent repeat abuse or other term breaches.

At this point of time, are you a little intimidated and plan to delete you account?

  1. Deletion of account: there is no direct way to delete the account. If you wish to delete, facebook would deactivate your account, and if you do not log in within 14 days, the account will be deleted. However, if you do login, you will be asked whether you still want to delete the account or not. There is a period of 14 days, during which time Facebook still has your data, and the data is permanently deleted once the account is deleted after 14 days.
  2. Deactivation: through deactivation of your account, you can temporarily stop using the Facebook products, but this does not ensure that your information will not be accessed by the facebook.

Basically, you cannot have your data deleted or facebook’s access to you data terminated immediately.

Facebook and Censorship

Facebook has been censored in number of countries. In the list of countries imposing complete censorship, North Korea stands on the first position. Iran, China, Egypt, Syria and Cuba also banned facebook in order to curb the protests and resistance against the government. Mauritius, Pakistan and Bangladesh also banned the social networking giant because some content was shared which was against the moral police of the country. The ban in Pakistan wa lifted within two weeks. Vietnam has also blocked facebook, but the reasons are unknown.

Status of Facebook in India

Facebook – WhatsApp case

Special Leave Petition against Delhi High court’s order was filed by Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Sethi in the Supreme court. In 2010, when the WhatsApp was launched, it assured users about strict privacy policies. Even in 2014, when Facebook acquired WhatsApp, the latter did not change its data policy. However, in 2016 WhatsApp announced that under new data policy, the WhatsApp data shall be shared with the Facebook. The petitioner contended, that Facebook, who already collects data of users from various third party, if will get access to the private and confidential information shared on WhatsApp, it will be a severe violation of Right to Privacy.

The case is pending in the Supreme court, it would be interesting to note the effect of Justice (Retd.) K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India which held Right to privacy as a component of Article 21 and a fundamental right.

Facebook data policy tries to give you as clear a picture as it can, by using subtle language and phrases like “tailored experience” to divert your attention from the point that a lot of your personal data is being accessed without asking for your express permission. But now that you are a well aware facebook user, you are ready to make an informed decision.

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