Facebook pushes for more payments, more targeted ads with new privacy policy

Users have a week to comment on the proposed changes

Facebook Privacy Basics

Facebook Privacy Basics

Facebook has updated its privacy policy, making it shorter, clearer and easier to read. But the update also paves the way for a broader payments push and more targeted ads.

Facebook is proposing updates to its terms of use, data and cookie policy to reflect new features, while trying to more clearly explain how its services work, Erin Egan, Facebook's Chief Privacy Officer, said in a blog post Thursday.

Facebook is updating its policies to explain how it gets location information, depending on the features someone uses. "For example, in the future, if you decide to share where you are, you might see menus from restaurants nearby or updates from friends in the area," Egan said.

Facebook is also experimenting with the way people can make purchases. In addition to the buy button that Facebook is testing in some regions to allow people to make purchases without leaving the platform, it is also working on new ways to make transactions more convenient and secure, Egan said.

In addition, Facebook is showing interest in understanding battery and signal strength of users' devices "in order to make sure our apps work well." Facebook will also ask permission to use phone location "to offer optional features like check-ins or adding your location to posts," Egan said.

While the social network said it will continue to improve the way it serves ads based on the apps and sites its users use, opting out of targeted ads will get easier.

Facebook already offers an opt-out for targeted ads, but the option currently does not work across browsers and devices. This raised hackles in Germany, where consumer organizations have called the practice absurd.

But Facebook is promising changes. "When you tell us you don't want to see these types of ads, your decision automatically applies to every device you use to access Facebook," Egan said, adding that the ad preferences tool will be made available in additional countries, beginning with Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, and the U.K.

Egan also reassured people who may worry about what the updates mean for what kind of data Facebook shares with advertisers. "Nothing is changing with these updates -- we help advertisers reach people with relevant ads without telling them who you are," she said.

As part of the revamp, Facebook introduced "Privacy Basics", a tool that offers users tips and a how-to guide for taking charge of their profiles, as well as a shorter and clearer privacy policy. The tool has information about untagging, unfriending, and blocking, and how to choose an audience for posts.

Users will be able to submit comments and suggestions about the proposed updates over the next seven days. Final updates will be shared soon after the comment period closes.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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