Give Facebook credit for candor. Facebook does not call the policy describing what it does with your personal information a “privacy policy”, but rather a “Data Use Policy”. The nomenclature is appropriate. The Facebook Data Use Policy is not so much about protecting the privacy of the information you share on Facebook as it is about Facebook’s plans for making money from that information. And the latest revision of the Facebook Data Use Policy, scheduled to go into effect this week (the “Proposed Policy”), suggests that Facebook’s plans include buying an ownership interest in an advertising agency and giving your personal information to that agency.

Some of the changes in this Proposed Policy are merely clarification. Changes made earlier this year already provided that Facebook can use information posted about you on Facebook to “personalize” ads displayed to you both on Facebook and outside of Facebook. The latest Policy revisions make it clear that in “personalizing” ads, Facebook may consider using everything you do and say on Facebook and anything others say or display about you when they “tag” you. You may remove your posts and other’s tags from your timeline, but this action does not remove the information from Facebook’s database.

The significant addition to this Policy is an entirely new provision that, for the first time, permits Facebook to engage in unlimited sharing of your personal information with “affiliates” with the following language:


We may share information we receive with businesses that are legally part of the same group of companies that Facebook is part of, or that become part of that group (often these companies are called affiliates). Likewise, our affiliates may share information with us as well. We and our affiliates may use shared information to help provide, understand, and improve our services and their own services.

Legally, an affiliate could include a company in which Facebook owns a minority interest.  Facebook has not announced any new acquisitions, and there is no reason to believe that one is planned for the immediate future. But it is certainly plausible that this Proposed Policy is intended to pave the way for: (i) taking an ownership interest in advertising agency and (ii) immediately commencing complete sharing Facebook data with that advertising agency.

Given how much Facebook knows about its users, such an agency could be much more effective than current online ad networks which serve advertisements based upon your behavior on the Internet (which they deduce through cookies placed on your browser by websites you’ve visited and advertisments you’ve clicked).

But nothing in the Proposed Policy limits Facebook’s use of your information “off Facebook” to on-line advertising. With its facial recognition software and its location tools, Facebook could place a camera at the entrance to a department store to identify you as you enter. Then, a digital sign linked to Facebook’s database could flash to you information about in-store offerings, based on Facebook’s cataloging of your interests and desires.  Oh what a brave new world, indeed.