Millions of Facebook users got a holiday surprise last week, in addition to whatever was in Grandma’s casserole dish on Thanksgiving Day: An e-mail from the company advising users that the site will update its terms of service beginning in 2015.
Facebook introduced “privacy basics” to give users control over who can see what is shared on their pages. The changes will also allow users better control of advertisements across all their devices, where previously these could continue to pop up on phones or other browsers.
Facebook said it will offer guides to answer the most commonly asked questions about how to control who can see posts, how to untag pictures, unfriending and blocking users and how to select an audience for each post. It also said it plans on introducing a “buy” button that will allow users to make purchases while still on the site. This information is available in 36 languages, the company stated.
In the past, some observers have been critical of the social media giant for a lack of transparency about how user information is shared. Though users signed up for the site have agreed to its terms of service, some have begun to post a legal notice on their account aimed at protecting copyright and privacy rights. However, under site rules, Facebook does not protect users content or privacy, posting the notice will not stop the company from using shared information and does not protect a user’s pictures or other multimedia.
As reported in TheBlot Magazine, Facebook executives explicitly stated something only implied by the company previously, that anything on the site — likes, photos, videos and comments —can be used for monetary gain. The company has long used information about users to target ads, but some professional and commercial photographers are upset by the recent changes as the company continues to come clean about what is really private or protected information.
Facebook reserves the right to not give users any privacy protection from their likes, photos or videos. But some, many photographers included, worry that the commercialization of their online selves will further creep into people’s personal lives and that the site may attempt to profit off a user’s personal information or multimedia.
Noah Zuss is a reporter for TheBlot Magazine.