Commentary

Facebook Clarifies Privacy Policies

Facing continued pressure from civil rights groups, Facebook is adding additional language to its policies to more clearly explain that developers cannot “use data obtained from us to provide tools that are used for surveillance.”

“Our goal is to make our policy explicit,” Rob Sherman, deputy chief privacy officer at Facebook, notes in a new post.

For Facebook, the move is part of a larger effort to crack down on developers who make and market surveillance tools, which are in violation of its existing policies.

The social giant has been the target of criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union of California, Color of Change, and the Center for Media Justice.

Sherman said Facebook is now working with these and similar groups. “For example, ACLU of California will discuss social media surveillance with a panel of experts at the SXSW conference later today,” Sherman said on Monday.

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In February, Facebook updated its ad guidelines to explicitly prohibit advertisers from discriminating against users based on race, ethnicity, color, national origin, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, family status, disability, or medical or genetic condition.

Per the change, the tech titan promised to prohibit ads offering a housing, employment or credit opportunity that either includes or excludes multicultural ad segments -- which consist of people interested in seeing content related to the African-American, Asian -merican and U.S. Hispanic communities.

Late last year, ProPublica reported that Facebook was making it possible for advertisers to prevent their ads from being shown to users who belonged to certain "ethnic affinity" groups.

The ProPublica report sparked outrage among lawmakers and activists, which led to a potential class-action civil rights lawsuit.

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