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Facebook again tries to simplify privacy policy

NEW YORK — Facebook is again trying to simplify its privacy policy — and make it much shorter — to better explain how it targets advertisements to its 1.35 billion users.

The world’s largest online social network uses the information people share on its site, along with the apps they employ and the websites they visit, to show them ads deemed relevant to them. In the July-September quarter, Facebook reported nearly $3 billion in advertising revenue, up 64 percent from a year earlier.

Users, regulators and privacy advocates have long said that its policies are too complicated. Two years ago, Facebook settled Federal Trade Commission charges that it had exposed details about users’ lives without getting the required legal consent. Last year, an independent audit that was part of the settlement found its privacy practices were sufficient.


On Thursday, Facebook introduced “Privacy Basics,’’ a set of animated, interactive guides to show users how to control what they share on the site. Tips answer questions such as ‘‘How do I delete something I post on Facebook?’’ and ‘‘What do people who aren’t my friends see when they search for me?’’

It also proposed changes to its terms and privacy policy, which it calls its data policy. The new policy is much shorter and lays out how Facebook collects data and what it does with it, among other things, in illustrated subsections.

Users will have until Nov. 20 to comment. A final policy goes into effect soon after that.

Facebook is also testing a tool that lets users buy things through its site, and it is ramping up its ad targeting, based on users’ locations. The new policy ensures that if you use Facebook to make a purchase, your credit card information will be collected, for example. Location information might include where you took a photo that you shared on the site, or the location of your mobile device.


Associated Press