Facebook has been promulgating the fact that they will be enacting new “terms of service (ToS) and conditions” starting on January 1st, 2015.
Happy New Year! All you have to do to agree to the new terms is to continue using the site.
Despite the fact that I suspect they could already do this, it seems the new Facebook ToS includes a new feature to track your location, and if you look at subscriber numbers that means tracking 1.3 billion users. If you think about it, that is a lot of computing power to track your footprints.
Let’s be honest too, in the premise that this will work because 99.99% of all Facebook users would rather agree to the new (or any) TOS and sign away some privacy rights than get kicked off. Some of that is laziness on the part of the users who don’t care as long as they get what they want, and the other part is how our lives are already so deeply entrenched in the site, is it not? And that’s what FB banks on! Lazy and hooked.
This new policy of tracking users supposedly gives more control to the user also, whereas you might have the ability to go into your profile and control what Facebook does with your online activity. On the other hand there will also be some features that provide location info on (and to) your friends. Their other sales pitch for our acceptance is that some of the new features will magically improve the battery life on your cell phone and help in signal strength.
The real trick behind the move, because face it, giving you more of what you want is not what sells ad space on FB, is about knowing where you are so that the ads you see are better targeted to you, or, targeted to your location. That means that as you might be driving be an REI, you might get an ad from REI promulgating their sale prices.
So if you want your buddies to track you, that’s fine. Being as how that is an option. But this also helps the advertisers track you.
Now before you get stir crazy about the following, remember, Google has been doing this to you for a very long time via your smartphones while your desktop and laptop computers have been doing things like this for an even longer time via cookies. Little benign text files saying, yes, I was visiting this and that site. Those cookies can also be read by other applications to tell or hint to them your probable likes and dislikes.
And before you go nuts about this new set up, this isn’t much more extra data or permissions that you might already be giving up to FB since they’ve been snagging extra permissions over time with some of their app updates or app break aways, like they did with their messenger. I mean we already give them the permission to read text messages and what not. (Why read our text messages? No clue. Doesn’t seem like something they need, but there it is any way.)
(Remember when the messenger broke away and people freaked about the new permissions it was asking for? If you pay attention the little details, users gave up those very same permissions six months prior to the FB app itself.)
To be honest, something like this doesn’t just happen. I am going to take a stab at the idea that updates and a few new permissions user have granted over the last year, including the messenger app break away has to to with the new ToS’s coming up.
So Facebook will be using your GPS, Bluetooth, and wi-fi signals to track your location and this will better serve FB to tell you when a buddy is nearby and hence, have improved ad targeting in the process.
But you can modify your privacy settings with FB to some degree…
In an interview with a lawyer over on Vice.com, he said that Facebook’s TOS are the most intrusive he’s seen. And furthermore,
” To be granted rights to track an individual’s movements, and thus the people that would be with those individuals, and to potentially commercially exploit without permission all pictures posted on Facebook without specific consent, is breath-taking.”
And he reminded readers that it is up to the user to take control of our privacy on these apps.
But regardless of what you do, you still can’t stop FB from sharing some of their demographic and personal information about you. Plus, no matter how you set your privacy controls, if “Bob,” who has not changed his privacy settings, shares your data or images, then your data gets in the wild, regardless of your own practices.
This is why some folks might be on FB but hardly do anything aside from an annual update or two with zero or no pics. They are not fond of how Facebook handles their information and content. One friend… no, online peer, actively does not do any of the social networks because of how they can track him. Yet he uses email and interacts with websites out there. Which pretty much is already his bowing his rights out to the various web entities. In one of my arguments with him, I point out that a simple email passes through any number of servers to get from his phone to his destination recipient, each server, its own tool or entity. Each website he’s visited knows who he is, and in one move, I actively blocked his phone from visiting my website. Just his. So even though he thinks he’s out from under the ever watchful eye of whomever, unless he stays off the web entirely, well, he’s wasting energy in this particular endeavor. (It’s a sad and long story about why I had to block him.)
No Matter What, Don’t Do This One Thing
There is one more thing about your privacy or right to copyright privacy of your content or images… Every time you see new ToS come out from Facebook, it is inevitable that you see users post “copyright” notices on their Facebook feeds or walls.
Let’s think about this for a minute. Using FB (Did you catch that… “using Facebook?”) to interact with the service by writing that you have attached your rights to your picture, or saying your content is private, or that you do not give FB permission to do this, that or the other thing, is truly a bit doofy.
For one, FB has reiterated over time that your content is your content. Even if you have given them permission (via using their service) to possibly use your content if they see fit, they still say the content you have provided is yours. You do own it. But if think about it, if you put up something and people share and reshare it, well, stuff gets out and tends to stay out. My motto is if you don’t want it out on the web, do not put it on the web in any way, shape and form. And wallah, whatever you did not put out on the internet can not possibly get out.
Second, if you are freaked out enough about owning an image you will be putting out there, put a water mark on your images. This will at least counter the process that FB uses to strip out your meta data. (Yes, uploading an image to FB strips out all informational content that might have been stored with an image.) Personally, with all the programming power they have, you would think they might offer a service that automatically watermarks your images, if you want. But that is just my silly thought on the issue.
Third or a reminder – the fact that you are publishing your “copyright notice” to Facebook is in and of itself, proof of your use of the platform, and use of your account, no matter what you might say on it, is concurring to their terms. You have to admit, it is kind of funny to see. It is akin to buying a car then sending a note with your car payment saying you decline to pay the interest rate.
So if you can muster it up, and as Slate.com says, stop sharing that copyright notice that is going around. It does nothing for you except show… well… you get it.