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Amidst Concerns, Facebook to Finalize New Privacy Policy This Week

by Jane Susskind, published

According to a recent study published by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project, 50 percent of Internet users are worried about the amount of personal information about them online -- an increase of 17 percent since 2009.

Growing concern with privacy online has resulted in 86 percent of Internet users taking measures to remove or mask their digital footprints, but what if your information was being shared without you knowing?

Newsflash: It is, so much so that U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg has granted final approval for Facebook’s $20 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit disputing the company's practice of sharing user information in the form of "Sponsored Stories," or activity advertisements, without the user's knowledge.

(To edit how Facebook can share your information on social ads, click HERE.)

Facebook responded with proposed updates to the 2 documents governing online privacy on the site: the Data Use Policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities:

"These two documents tell you about how we collect and use data, and the rules that apply when you choose to use Facebook," Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan writes on the Facebook Site Governance Page.

The updates are an attempt at transparency, with Facebook explicitly outlining what information Facebook users automatically consent to handing over when they neglect to manually opt-out.

(To edit how Facebook can share your information with third party sites, click HERE.)

One troubling component of the updated Data Use Policy reads: “We are able to suggest that your friend tag you in a picture by scanning and comparing your friend’s pictures to information we’ve put together from your profile pictures and the other photos in which you’ve been tagged.” 

What this means is that Facebook can gather information about you not only based on information that you choose to share, but by scanning posts that your friends choose to share on the network. Facebook is essentially building the capacity to build an internal profile of any given user -- without their consent.

(To edit who can tag you in posts, click HERE.)

The revisions to Facebook's privacy policy, however, were met with fierce opposition from 6 major privacy groups who sent a joint letter urging the Federal Trade Commission to re-evaluate the language used in Facebook's privacy revisions, claiming it violates the agreement reached between the 2 groups in 2011.

Scheduled to take effect September 5, the social network has since halted the implementation of the new Facebook privacy policy:

"We are taking the time to ensure that people's comments are reviewed and taken into consideration to determine whether further updates are necessary and we expect to finalize the process in the coming week," a Facebook spokesperson told The Huffington Post by email.

While the change in privacy policy is not expected to take place until later this week, when is the last time you looked at your privacy settings on Facebook?

(To edit your general privacy settings - who can see your stuff, contact you, or look you up - click HERE.)

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