Nothing in life is certain except death, taxes … and Facebook changes.

On November 21, over a billion Facebook users received a notice concerning upcoming policy changes to its site. The email invited Facebook users to read and comment on changes that will go into effect on November 28 at 9 am PST.

Contrary to what many concerned users believe — based in large part on “Copyright Protection” messages circulating on Facebook user statuses — the company is not making changes to users’ rights to their own content. Rather, the company is seeking to expand its policy on data shared with advertisers, presumably as a way of increasing revenue.

Mathew Ingram of GigaOm says the new data usage policy means that Facebook “is going to use the data it has about your likes and dislikes to show you ads outside of Facebook.” While currently Facebook shares with advertisers user information such as age, gender and place of residence, the company will soon add other information such as products and brands users like, their religion, political views and health status.”

“The sharing of data is not new,” explains Leslie Meredith of TechNewsDaily, “but Facebook is adding details to prevent its users from being surprised by ads coinciding with their demographic information that might seem intrusive.”

In its email to users, Facebook also underlines changes to its policies concerning promoting a business on individual sites: users are to use Facebook Pages, not Personal Timelines, to promote a business or product.

A final change addressed in the Facebook email is the issue of public voting on Facebook’s policy changes. In the past, Facebook invited users to comment and vote on policy changes, with a view of reaching a 30% participation rate in the voting process. However, this voting system failed miserably: in the last vote Facebook held, only 0.03% of users participated. According to Ingram, “getting 30 percent of Facebook users to vote would mean 300 million people, which is more than twice as many as voted in the recent federal election in the U.S.”

Under the new policy rules, users will have a seven-day period to comment on any proposed changes but will need to recognize that Facebook does not consider itself under any obligation to comply with user opinions.

Overall, the recent notice serves as a good reminder to all Facebook users to review the company’s privacy policy which, in short, is that anything you post or your friends post on a public page is considered by Facebook to be public information, and can therefore be shared with potential advertisers.


Facebook Site Governance Page. “Data Use Policy

Ingram, Mathew. “Facebook Makes It Official: An External Advertising Network Is Coming Soon” Nov. 26, 2012. Bloomberg Businessweek.

Meredith, Leslie. “How Facebook policy changes affect you” Nov 27, 2012. Fox News.

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