Revised Facebook policy hints at location tagging

Wary of last February's outcry, Facebook announces new version of privacy policy in advance of possible "place" and third-party site features.

A year ago, Facebook experienced something of a privacy uprising from its users over a minor change to its privacy policy.

Never mind that the outcry grew out of a consumer blogger's mostly mistaken analysis: Online protests were staged, a Washington, D.C., activist group threatened to complain to federal regulators, and founder Mark Zuckerberg offered a public mea culpa.

This time around, by announcing proposed changes dealing with location tagging and third party Web sites before they take effect, Facebook is hoping to avoid repeating what happened last year.

In a post on Friday, Michael Richter, Facebook's deputy general counsel, said the changes specifically allow Facebook to collect location information and permit sharing general information about users with "pre-approved" Web sites using Facebook Platform. (Users can choose to block that sharing.)

The tweaks will "make way for some exciting new products we're contemplating," Richter said. "Not all of these products have been finalized and many aren't yet built at all." Facebook users have until April 3 to comment on the proposed changes.

While it's not entirely clear what Facebook intends, Richter said the possible additions to the site amounted to "interesting opportunities to improve the way you share and connect with the people and things in your life."

One section of the new privacy policy talks about being able to tag Facebook friends by "place," not just by name in photos or videos. The New York Times reported earlier this month that a location-based feature will be announced soon.

Another allows "pre-approved third party Web sites and applications" that use Facebook Platform to obtain general information about you, including name, photo, friend list, and public information from your account--as long as you're still logged into Facebook. That means "you and your friend can be connected on that Web site as well" as long as both of you have an account on that Web site, the revised privacy policy says.

Other proposed changes apply to developers and third party Web sites. They're required to "delete all data" from Facebook if a user requests, and may not transfer Facebook data to advertising networks like AOL Advertising, Google, DoubleClick.

More details may be released next month at Facebook's F8 developer conference in San Francisco.

 

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