Facebook has well over a billion monthly active Facebook users, but just how many of them have read the social media giant’s Data Policy? For that matter…have you? Even if you wanted too, you probably couldn’t: researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have determined that it would take the average American 76 full work days to simply slog their way through all of the privacy policies they encounter during the average year. So what exactly did you agree to in exchange for the right to routinely check in with your friends, family members and loose acquaintances? Let’s take a closer look.
Facebook begins collecting a breathtaking amount of data about you the moment you sign up for an account. This includes your registration information; anything you add to your account or timeline or share — including your likes and interactions with friends, advertisements and apps; keywords from your posts; and information about the websites and apps you visit. Facebook even collects all of the things it “infer[s] from your use of Facebook.”
Perhaps most egregiously of all, Facebook also collects the information you choose not to share. Dubbed “self-censorship,” this includes posts which you’ve written or started to write but never shared.
What is Facebook doing with all of this information? Selling it to advertisers, of course. This explains why you start getting ads for handbags mere seconds after you perform an internet search for the latest styles.
Facebook even tracks your purchases and collects your financial information for every transaction. In other words, if you buy a life on Candy Crush using your credit or debit card, Facebook logs your card number and other information, including your authentication information, billing, shipping and contact details.
But At Least They’re Still Your Photos, Right?
If this all a bit too “Big Brother,” and you’re thinking of deactivating your account, here’s more bad news: it won’t help. When you leave Facebook, your information doesn’t necessarily leave with you. While you “own all of the content and information you post on Facebook,” you grant Facebook the “non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook.” In other words, you may own it, but Facebook can use it as Facebook sees fit. And while this agreement ends when you close your account, any photos, videos or content that you’ve shared with others will continue to live on in perpetuity.
Even if you did manage to read Facebook’s exhaustive privacy policies, it doesn’t matter much: the company reserves the right to change them at any point with only seven days notice. So what’s the takeaway? Your best and perhaps only protection — short of going off the grid — is doing some collecting of your own: stay informed about the latest news and updates in order to best navigate this brave new world in which social media knows as much about you as your own mother.