What Facebook's Proposed Policy Changes Mean For You

Facebook is planning to change its privacy policy once again — but before it does so, the social media giant has posted the proposed changes online for Facebook users to weigh in today (Oct. 13). Additionally, Facebook has posted a simplified version of its privacy policies, called Privacy Basics.

Comments and suggestions on the proposed policy changes, which relate to Facebook's terms, data policy and cookie policy, are only open for the next seven days. So here's what you need to know about Facebook's changes, and what these changes mean for you.

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First of all, Facebook's simplified Privacy Basics page is far more readable than the previous 9,000 word monolith that was Facebook's privacy policy. It breaks information down into three basic categories: what others see about you, how others interact with you and what you see. 

Not so for the rest of Facebook's policy; the proposed changes, which relate to Facebook's terms, data policy and cookie policy, are still difficult to read, and there's no easy way to tell what is changed between the existing and proposed versions. In addition, the changes don't appear to represent any significant change in the way Facebook does business. Rather, it merely clarifies what Facebook does and how it does it. For example, the new Privacy Policy clearly states that Facebook can gather location data from all devices on which Facebook is installed, via GPS, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

"We're working on ways to show you the most relevant information based on where you are and what your friends are up to. 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," Facebook says in a notice about today's changes

Facebook appears to collect this information no matter what. However, you can stop this information from being public by opening the Facebook app, going to the settings menu, tapping Privacy, and then Location Devices. From there you can stop your GPS location from appearing next to your Facebook posts.

Facebook also now specifies that when you make a purchase via a Facebook app, even if it's a third-party app, Facebook will collect your payment information.

In addition, Facebook has an updated ad preferences tool that will appear alongside every Facebook ad and explain why you are seeing that particular ad. You can also tell Facebook whether or not you're actually interested in a given advertising topic, so you will no longer see ads about that topic. The ad preferences tool is currently available in the United States only. Facebook says it will expand to the rest of the world in the next few months. 

There's no sure-fire way to opt out of all Facebook ads, but Facebook's About Advertising page contains a link to the United States Digital Advertising Alliance (or the Digital Advertising Alliance in Canada, and the European Interactive Digital Advertising Alliance in Europe). If you visit your country's respective page, you can opt out of a good chunk of online behavior-based advertising. However, this will only stop the ads of companies that participate in the respective alliance, and will not stop you from seeing any ads at all.

On the Facebook mobile app, go to Settings and then tap "Messenger location services." Then uncheck "location is on." You can also choose to remove your location information from specific Facebook posts.

You can comment on Facebook's proposed policy changes at this link. Speak now or forever hold your peace. 

Email jscharr@tomsguide.com or follow her @JillScharr and Google+.  Follow us @TomsGuide, onFacebook and on Google+.

Jill Scharr is a creative writer and narrative designer in the videogame industry. She's currently Project Lead Writer at the games studio Harebrained Schemes, and has also worked at Bungie. Prior to that she worked as a Staff Writer for Tom's Guide, covering video games, online security, 3D printing and tech innovation among many subjects.