Facebook Adopts Simplified Privacy Policy

Facebook has formalized an update to its privacy rules in an effort to bring clarity and simplicity to the social networking giant’s policies.

Facebook had published the rules as a proposal in late October, giving users one week to submit comments before codifying the new rules.

But fewer than 7,000 people commented, a turnout that failed to meet Facebook’s minimum threshold to throw open a policy change to a vote.

“Because of this — and the fact that many of the comments were positive — we’ve decided to adopt the revised policy,” Facebook Deputy General Counsel Michael Richter explained in a blog post announcing the changes.

The new privacy policy aims to make the meaningful disclosures more accessible to users by removing much of the legal and technical language that typically fill such documents.

It also clarifies Facebook’s policy on retaining users’ information after an account has been removed, explaining the difference between deactivating an account and the more permanent step of deleting it altogether.

The changes came in response to a probe initiated by Canadian regulatory authorities, who had threatened to take Facebook to court if it did not take steps to provide consumers with more meaningful notice of its privacy policies.

In August, Facebook reached an agreement with Canada’s privacy commissioner to update its policies governing how both the company treats users’ data, and how their information is collected and used on third-party applications.

“In the coming weeks and months, we plan to build on the progress we’ve already made in making the document more accessible by also adding definitions of key terms, screen shots of important pages and informational ‘learn more’ videos,” Richter said. “We think these visual resources will make it even easier to understand how privacy works on Facebook.”

The new method of implementing the changes — offering a proposal and inviting comments and, potentially, a vote by the community — began in February, when Facebook was scrambling to quell unrest over a change in its usage agreement that appeared to assert permanent ownership of users’ data, even after an account had been deleted.

That flare-up followed several other highly publicized firestorms where Facebook’s members had erupted over the company’s unilateral decision-making process.

Facebook was careful to say when it rolled out the changes in February that the new democratic mode of governance would apply only to issues concerning usage of the site, such as the new privacy policy. That meant that decisions about products, such as the numerous and always-controversial tweaks to the home page, would still be made within the company.

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