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Facebook’s Privacy Policy Longer than the Constitution

Facebook is definitely having a time of it these days. Amidst broad criticism from users, officials, and advocates alike regarding their privacy policy — you know, the one that, by default, makes your information public for the roving eyes of third-party businesses and curious exes — the New York Times recently published an interesting piece (with infographics!) giving credence to why this is such a big problem.

As it turns out, Facebook’s Privacy Policy, as of this year, is now longer than the U.S. Constitution without its amendments. 5830 words to be exact, versus the Constitution’s 4543. Comparing that to the just over 1000 words that existed in the policy back in 2005, that’s a 480% increase in complex language that details how your information is seen by the roughly 200 million people who use the site on a daily basis. Seriously? Imagine the energy it would take to navigate that policy to reach your ideal privacy setting. Especially when the Constitution itself is a constant source of study and debate, the comparison has some weight.

The Times writes:

The new opt-out settings certainly are complex. Facebook users who hope to make their personal information private should be prepared to spend a lot of time pressing a lot of buttons. To opt out of full disclosure of most information, it is necessary to click through more than 50 privacy buttons, which then require choosing among a total of more than 170 options.

Fair enough. But supposing one scholar or two does get through that labor of love that this clicking boxes “only my friends” or “only me” entails? They continue:

Even if a user changes all the settings on the privacy section of the site, certain pieces of information will still be shared across the site unless a user takes further action. For example, under the Account Settings option, in the Facebook Ads tab, two options are automatically turned on to share some information with advertising networks and friends. Anyone who wants to keep this information private must uncheck the boxes in that tab.

And still, some information will no longer remain private because Facebook has also added a feature, called community pages, which automatically links personal data, like hometown or university, to topic pages for that town or university. The only way to disappear from those topic pages is to delete personal data from Facebook.

Curiouser and curiouser. However, it seems the folks at Facebook are willing to respond. This evening, at 4 PM Pacific this evening, they will be holding an all-hands meeting that, according to All Facebook, will “discuss the company’s overall privacy strategy according to sources inside the company.” Perhaps an “opt-in” policy that makes information private? It’s possible. In the meantime, you might want to get reading.

[via NYT, All Facebook]

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