Facebook proposes changes to its terms and policies

They're needed to accommodate new services coming in the future, the company says

Facebook is proposing tweaks to its site governance documents so that they will be consistent with new services the social networking company plans to roll out.

Facebook members have until midnight U.S. Pacific Time on April 3 to make comments to the proposed changes to the company's Privacy Policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities in this page.

"Not all of these products have been finalized and many aren't yet built at all. However, we've definitely identified some interesting opportunities to improve the way you share and connect with the people and things in your life," wrote Michael Richter , Facebook's deputy general counsel, in an official blog post.

"It is important to note that, while we're still developing many aspects of these products, user control over privacy remains essential to our innovation process and we'll continue to develop new tools to help you control the things you share on Facebook," he added.

Among the proposed modifications is one involving a planned "location" feature that had already been referenced in a previous change to the governance documents. Without providing many details, Richter said Facebook has taken out the original description of this feature's purpose as for adding "location to something you post" to instead center on the idea of "place," which could encompass something like a Facebook fan Page, and not just an actual physical or geographical location.

Richter also said the document now is intended to be clearer about the fact that users have more control over the broadcasting of some actions than others. For example, some actions, like accepting a friend request, are "a two-way public connection," so while one of the parties can control how it appears on his or her profile, the notice can be discovered elsewhere as well. Then there are "one-way" actions, like the sharing of a link or a photo, over which a user has complete control in determining who can access it.

Regarding third-party Web sites, Facebook is entertaining the possibility to provide what Richter describes as "a more personalized experience" than is possible today when Facebook members visit them. If this saw the light, it would be with a small set of "pre-approved" partners and would be accompanied by a brand new set of privacy controls, he said.

Facebook is also attempting to further refine and clarify its fairly recent privacy option called "Everyone," which was introduced in response to demand from members who wanted to make all or part of their profiles more widely accessible beyond their list of friends or members of their networks.

"People still own the information they post to Facebook, but the 'Everyone' setting is designed to enable people to share content as broadly as possible. To enable this distribution, we allow others to see, access, display, export, distribute and redistribute content set to 'Everyone' and we've tried to make this even clearer," Richter said.

For example, the Privacy Policy states that information labeled "Everyone" is publicly available not only to all Facebook users but also to those not logged into the site. This information can also be indexed by public search engines like Google, likely setting the stage for Facebook to let search engines index members' status updates and other content that they have set to "Everyone."

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Juan Carlos Perez

IDG News Service
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