What Are Facebook’s New Terms Of Service? Here’s What They Mean For You

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Get your feedback fingers ready, because starting today, you have one week to send Facebook your thoughts about proposed new updates to its terms of service and data policy. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica revelations, in which the Trump-linked data-mining firm allegedly harvested and utilized the user data of more than 50 million Facebook profiles, Facebook has publicly released its intended updates, which are meant to more clearly outline, in language your average human understands, just how much information it has about you, how it gets that information, and who has access to it, TechCrunch reported.

If you're worried Facebook is taking this opportunity to ask you to give them more rights to collect your data, Facebook says don't worry. In a statement posted April 4, executives said the new terms are not going to ask you to agree to any new methods of allowing Facebook to collect, use, or share your data. The updates appear to be purely for the purpose of making the nitty-gritty details of what Facebook does with its users' data plainly available for them to see.

Let's jump right in. Facebook is proposing significant changes in the Device Information section of its privacy policy. In the old policy, Facebook explained that it collected "attributes such as the operating system, hardware version, device settings, file and software names and types, battery and signal strength, and device identifiers." But remember, that's the old version.

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In the new version, Facebook clarifies that it collects "information such as the operating system, hardware and software versions, battery level, signal strength, available storage space, browser type, app and file names and types, and plugins" (emphasis mine).

In the new version, Facebook specifies that it examines your device's signal strength through access to "Bluetooth signals, and information about nearby Wi-Fi access points, beacons, and cell towers." Further information about your location is gleaned from data Facebook collects about your network and connections. In the old version of its privacy policy, Facebook said it collected information including your "mobile operator or ISP, browser type, language and time zone, mobile phone number and IP address."

Now, the updated version expands that list. Facebook's new policy shows collected information includes "the name of your mobile operator or ISP, language, time zone, mobile phone number, IP address, connection speed, and in some cases, information about other devices that are nearby or on your network" (emphasis mine).

That is admittedly all pretty plainly spoken, but if you want the too long, didn't read version: Facebook knows your location. It also knows information about your computer, your phone, your tablet, and any other device you use to interact with your Facebook account.

And there's more. In the new version, Facebook says it knows "whether a window is foregrounded or backgrounded," and also tracks your mouse movements, "which can help distinguish humans from bots." Along with those, Facebook knows what "identifiers" you use in "games, apps or accounts you use."

The new terms of service assures users that Facebook doesn't access your device's "address book or call log or SMS log history" unless you directly upload that to Facebook yourself (which you would do by importing your contacts to find more friends, for instance). This appears to address recent allegations that Android users reportedly found "months or years of call history data in their downloadable Facebook data file," and that "it appears close contacts, like family members, are the only ones tracked in Facebook’s call records," according to The Verge.

In the updated privacy policy, Facebook also states that it doesn't sell any of its users' information, never will, and that, "We also impose strict restrictions on how our partners can use and disclose the data we provide." According to the updated terms of service, Facebook gives your data to a range of third-party partners. These third-party partners include: People and businesses who want to know how users interact with their content; advertisers; companies that aggregate data and "provide analytics and measurement reports to [Facebook's] partners"; vendors and service providers, e.g. the folks who conduct surveys and provide customer service; researchers and academics; and law enforcement and legal requests.

This may all be a lot to take in, but remember: This is not new. Facebook was already collecting this information. And all of this is a good reminder that while reading the terms of service can make you informed about what information is being stored, it doesn't change the fact that by consenting to these terms, you are giving away access to this data.