Facebook Rewrites Privacy Policy, Foreshadows Location Based Services

Facebook’s VP of Communications and Public Policy Elliot Schrage has posted an update to the site’s blog outlining a major rewrite Facebook is proposing for its Privacy Policy. Schrage writes that the new version eliminates the legalese of the privacy policy the company has used up until now, spelling out what the site is doing with user data in more explicit terms. You can find the proposed document here and the current privacy policy here.

The new terms are certainly easier to read, and they also contain some significant changes (including a couple Schrage doesn’t point out). One of these seems to indicate that Facebook may well be releasing location-related features soon (this is the first time any language related to location has appeared in any of Facebook’s policy documents, Facebook has confirmed) :

“Location Information. When you share your location with others or add a location to something you post, we treat that like any other content you post (for example, it is subject to your privacy settings). If we offer a service that supports this type of location sharing we will present you with an opt-in choice of whether you want to participate.”

This is obviously a big step for Facebook, and one that many people have been expected for a long time. Twitter is moving into geolocation, and Facebook doesn’t want to be late to the game. Still, with all of Facebook’s privacy settings this will be a tricky dance for the world’s largest social network.

Also important to note is the section on the ‘Everyone’ setting, which talks about what happens when you share something that gets indexed by a search engine (you can’t remove it).

“Everyone” Privacy Setting. Information set to “everyone” is publicly available information, may be accessed by everyone on the Internet (including people not logged into Facebook), is subject to indexing by third party search engines, may be associated with you outside of Facebook (such as when you visit other sites on the internet), and may be imported and exported by us and others without privacy limitations. The default privacy setting for certain types of information you post on Facebook is set to “everyone.” You can review and change the default settings in your privacy settings. If you delete “everyone” content that you posted on Facebook, we will remove it from your Facebook profile, but have no control over its use outside of Facebook.

Schrage also writes that the revision fulfills the company’s committment to Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, who has been investigating Facebook’s privacy policies and practices.

This brings the privacy policy in line with Facebook’s other core documents, which the site began revamping last February after a user uproar over some changes made to its Terms of Service. Facebook’s ‘governance’ system now invites users to submit their comments and vote on documents before they’re finalized.

Other documents that have been written and edited in this fashion include Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, Principles, and Payment Terms.