Risk
2/25/2011
05:14 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Facebook Proposes 'Data Use' Policy To Replace 'Privacy Policy'

It's not an official change, but if enough Facebook users approve, it could become one.

Facebook on Friday acknowledged what privacy advocates have been saying for years: Privacy policies are too difficult to understand.

"Our own privacy policy has been criticized as being '5830 words of legalese' and 'longer than the U.S. constitution -- without the amendments,' the company said in a blog post. "Okay, you're right. We agree that privacy policies can and should be more easily understood, and that inspired us to try something different."

The social networking site, which seems to be competing with Google to see which company can make headlines for the most privacy-related gaffes every year, wants to make privacy policies easy to understand, more visual and interactive, and more relevant to users' concerns.

Toward that end, Facebook has re-imagined its privacy policy and presented the results for user comment.

Most remarkably, the proposed design dispenses with the term "Privacy Policy" and replaces it with "Data Use Policy." Privacy advocates have long complained that the term "Privacy Policy" is misleading because privacy policies generally describe how and when data is shared.

This isn't an official change however: Facebook's Privacy Policy continues to represent the company's official position.

The proposed revision is undeniably more visually appealing. It's no longer a tower of impenetrable text. Instead, the "Data Use Policy" has been broken up into multiple pages. This makes it much more readable.

But what's gained in readability is lost in navigation: Each of the six primary sections on the Data Use Policy page leads to multiple subsections on the linked page, and many of these subsections require further navigation via disclosure icons. Navigating through all this is a chore.

Aza Raskin, formerly the design lead for Mozilla's Firefox and and more recently the co-founder of health startup Massive Health, framed the problem with privacy policies thus: "We need to reduce the complexity of privacy policies to an indicator scannable in seconds."

Complexity is not just a matter of words per page. It's a matter of time to comprehension. And unfortunately, Facebook's "Data Use Policy" remains irreducibly complex because Facebook and its platform developers employ user data in many different ways. The company admits that is has "tried not to change the substance of the policy..."

And therein lies Facebook's problem: Neither its "Privacy Policy" nor its "Data Use Policy" includes an option for actual privacy, which is to say unidentified use.

"If you want to completely block applications from getting your information, you will need to turn off all Platform applications," the company explains. "This means that you will no longer be able to use any games, applications or Web sites." And even then, Facebook still knows who you are, unless you're violating the site's Terms of Service. Facebook requires that users submit accurate personal information.

Contrast this with a post by Alma Whitten, Google's director of privacy for products and engineering, on Friday describing how Google supports three modes of use: unidentified, pseudonymous and identified.

Facebook needs an anonymity policy.

Even if Facebook remains unwilling to allow users to embrace anonymous use, its Data Use Policy could do with further refinement. The company's designers may find it worthwhile to review Raskin's suggestion that privacy policies should follow in the footsteps of Creative Commons, which has made media usage rights easy to understand.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
Partner Perspectives
What's This?
In a digital world inundated with advanced security threats, Intel Security seeks to transform how we live and work to keep our information secure. Through hardware and software development, Intel Security delivers robust solutions that integrate security into every layer of every digital device. In combining the security expertise of McAfee with the innovation, performance, and trust of Intel, this vision becomes a reality.

As we rely on technology to enhance our everyday and business life, we must too consider the security of the intellectual property and confidential data that is housed on these devices. As we increase the number of devices we use, we increase the number of gateways and opportunity for security threats. Intel Security takes the “security connected” approach to ensure that every device is secure, and that all security solutions are seamlessly integrated.
Featured Writers
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading's October Tech Digest
Fast data analysis can stymie attacks and strengthen enterprise security. Does your team have the data smarts?
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-4594
Published: 2014-10-25
The Payment for Webform module 7.x-1.x before 7.x-1.5 for Drupal does not restrict access by anonymous users, which allows remote anonymous users to use the payment of other anonymous users when submitting a form that requires payment.

CVE-2014-0476
Published: 2014-10-25
The slapper function in chkrootkit before 0.50 does not properly quote file paths, which allows local users to execute arbitrary code via a Trojan horse executable. NOTE: this is only a vulnerability when /tmp is not mounted with the noexec option.

CVE-2014-1927
Published: 2014-10-25
The shell_quote function in python-gnupg 0.3.5 does not properly quote strings, which allows context-dependent attackers to execute arbitrary code via shell metacharacters in unspecified vectors, as demonstrated using "$(" command-substitution sequences, a different vulnerability than CVE-2014-1928....

CVE-2014-1928
Published: 2014-10-25
The shell_quote function in python-gnupg 0.3.5 does not properly escape characters, which allows context-dependent attackers to execute arbitrary code via shell metacharacters in unspecified vectors, as demonstrated using "\" (backslash) characters to form multi-command sequences, a different vulner...

CVE-2014-1929
Published: 2014-10-25
python-gnupg 0.3.5 and 0.3.6 allows context-dependent attackers to have an unspecified impact via vectors related to "option injection through positional arguments." NOTE: this vulnerability exists because of an incomplete fix for CVE-2013-7323.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Follow Dark Reading editors into the field as they talk with noted experts from the security world.