Meta’s Updated Privacy Policy Is a Simplified (And Terrifying) Explanation of What Data They’re Constantly Capturing

Meta’s Updated Privacy Policy Is a Simplified (And Terrifying) Explanation of What Data They’re Constantly Capturing
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The company formerly known as Facebook wants you to know it takes your privacy seriously. Giving you the illusion of control with a flashy re-designed Privacy Policy that details the alarming amount of data Meta has access to. With your consent, of course.

Meta, the company that isn’t exactly known for its great data privacy practices, today launched a new Privacy Policy and held a press briefing where it told journalists it valued transparency and that this new policy shows said transparency. It’s very transparent. Alarmingly so.

Headlining the announcement is that Meta has rewritten and re-designed its Privacy Policy to make it easier to understand. It also aims to make it a little clearer as to how it uses your information. This is accompanied by a refreshed Terms of Service that better explains what is expected from the company and those who use its platforms.

It covers Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and other products like the Meta Quest. It doesn’t include WhatsApp, Workplace, Free Basics, Messenger Kids or the use of Quest devices without a Facebook account, which have their own privacy policies.

Privacy Policy version two (previously the company’s Data Policy) comes into effect July 26, 2022. It will include pages upon pages of information, organised in an easier to consume manner than before. It will also include some informative videos, one of which was shown during the briefing.

It explains how your data is gathered, and you almost ignore just how invasive this is because the narrator’s voice is happy, and somewhat calming, the graphics are cute and the music is uplifting.

“At Meta, we use information to provide you with a more personal, secure and meaningful experience, but where does that information come from?,” it starts.

“The information we collect comes from a variety of sources. One is your activity on Meta apps, products, services and hardware, things like liking an Instagram post, playing a game on your Meta Quest 2, buying from Facebook Marketplace or sharing fundraisers on Facebook all generate information.

“Sometimes businesses also share information with us like your activity on their websites, they may also share experiences you have offline, like signing up for a rewards card with your email address.”

Why? Well, according to the video, this makes it easier for them to share promotions, production information and other ads with you through Meta’s apps, which the video said was “consistent with the choices you make”.

Everything is fine. This is not at all terrifying. Please stop and think about what data Meta has on you, and check out this guide on how to delete your Facebook account for completely unrelated reasons.

Gizmodo Australia asked Rob Sherman, vice president and deputy chief privacy officer for policy at Meta, if instead of telling users what it did with their personal information that it could perhaps just stop collecting so, so much of it. Or at least go some way to reduce its data collection practices to, you know, regain some user trust.

“This policy update specifically does not reflect any new practices, it is about communicating more clearly and more effectively what we do today,” responded Sherman, who has actually been with the company for 20 years (!!!).

“That said, I definitely agree that looking at ways to reduce the amount of data we use or to manage it more effectively are important and a part of the work that we’re doing to build trust.”

He said Meta has actually done a “bunch of work in this area”. Including introducing privacy-enhancing technologies (differential privacy, aggregation or anonymisation, etc) – basically a way to still allow advertisers to advertise to you, but in a way that isn’t as invasive. Sherman said Meta has also given people additional controls so they can manage what data the company can scrape from your off-Facebook activities and that the company has also been investing heavily in end-to-end encryption (already in WhatsApp, in the works for Messenger) so people’s conversations can be private.

That’s not what I meant, but there ya have it, folks. At least Meta is telling you what data it’s getting from you, I guess. It’s utterly terrifying.