Jul. 8, 2019
Facebook is updating its Terms of Service to more clearly explain how the platform works. Specifically, the updated information will better explain how Facebook makes money, how it removes content, how it protects users’ intellectual property rights, and what happens when a user deletes content.
The updated Terms of Service is part of Facebook’s ongoing efforts to improve transparency and give users more control over their information. Facebook has been working with the European Consumer Protection Cooperation Network and gathering input from regulators, policymakers, and consumer protection experts to explain how the platform works in the clearest way possible.
“People should have clear, simple explanations of how online services work and use personal information,” Facebook’s VP and associate general counsel, Anna Benckert,said in the platform’s announcement.
The update does not change Facebook’s policies or how the platform works in any way. It merely explains existing information more clearly.
The specific information that Facebook is updating includes the following:
- How Facebook makes money: Facebook better explains that it makes money through ads paid for by businesses and organizations to provide users with the platform’s free services.
- Removing content: Facebook gives more information about its process for removing content that does not adhere to its terms or policies.
- Users’ intellectual property rights: Facebook clarifies that users own the intellectual property rights of their own photo and video content, even after they share it. By sharing their content on the platform, users give Facebook permission to display that content. When users delete the content, that permission ends.
- What happens after content deletion: Facebook will better explain what happens after a user deletes content. According to Facebook, the content is no longer visible once deleted, but it may take up to 90 days to be entirely removed from the platform’s systems.
Facebook’s efforts does not end with the full global rollout of the updates. According to Benckert, the company will still continue to make the plaform more transparent to users.
“Beyond these updates, we’ll keep working on ways to make sure people understand how our business works, how their information is used, and how they can control it,” said Benckert.
Facebook and Transparency
The updated Terms of Service is one of Facebook’s many transparency efforts. Earlier this year, the network introduced a new “Why am I seeing this post?” feature, giving users more control over the content they see in their News Feeds, helping them better understand the algorithm. Additionally, the platform now has a “Why am I seeing this ad?” feature that functions similarly, giving users information about how businesses and organizations target them.
As elections are nearing in the US, transparency becomes even more important. In June, the social media company rolled out transparency tools for advertisers who are purchasing social issues, elections, or political ads. The tools help prevent foreign interference in elections, such as the one lead by Russia during the 2016 US presidential election.
Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the data firm harvested data from more than 80 million users’ profiles, transparency has also been a major priority for Facebook. Users began researching how to download their data and how to delete their account out of fear for their personal information and sudden distrust of the platform. Facebook has since been working to redeem itself, rolling out new transparency features and giving users more control over their accounts, privacy settings, and personal information. Although the platform’s efforts have been diligent and admirable, Facebook recognizes that the pursuit of transparency is an ongoing project.
With so many users finding it difficult to fully understand how Facebook works, the update to the Terms of Service will likely be a welcome change. Knowledge is power; the more users know about the platform they use, the more in control they will feel. Perhaps the changes will encourage users who previously deleted their Facebook accounts to return. Or perhaps users who did not create a Facebook account will consider joining, now that the platform will be easier to understand.
Written by Anna Hubbel, contributing writer