Facebook Updates Terms of Service as “Buy Now” Battle Heats Up with Twitter

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Facebook’s privacy policies are like the weather—if don’t like them, just wait a few minutes and they’ll probably change.

The just-released set of updates includes a new interactive tutorial called “Privacy Basics,” in an attempt to clarify and simplify its Terms of Service to get more people to read and understand them—a hot button issue given its previous adventures in TOS-tweaking.

Scheduled to be implemented on Jan. 1, Facebook gave early access to the Washington Post‘s Switch blog, which commented that “Facebook rewrites its privacy policy so that humans can understand it,” while Fortune‘s Tech blog said, “Facebook’s privacy policy is clearer, but no less complicated.”[more]

After the first 559 words Facebook states, “Nothing is changing with these updates”—just “helping you get more out of Facebook.”

The new policy is a slimmed-down 2,700 words, condensing the previous verbiage that clocked it at more than 9,000 words.

Consumer Affairs summarized the changes, adding their own perspective:

  • “Discover what’s going on around you” (translation: you’ll get targeted location-specific ads for restaurants and other services in your immediate vicinity)
  • “Make purchases more convenient” (there’s apps so you can buy stuff without leaving Facebook, thus increasing the possibility you’ll spend money)
  • “Understand how we use the information we receive” (all for your benefit, of course)
  • “Get to know how the family of Facebook companies and apps work together” (Facebook’s right hand knows what its left hand is doing, metaphorically speaking)

One of the goals is to clarify how Facebookers can access Instagram and WhatsApp, in an oblique reminder that Facebook owns those brands and would like its users to adopt them, too.

As for the ever-controversial issue of advertising, in tandem with decreasing brandcasting on the newsfeed, Facebook is giving its users more control over the ads they see—a move that follows its mobile ad network launch.

“You can opt out of seeing ads on Facebook based on the apps and sites you use through the Digital Advertising Alliance,” said Global Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan. “You can also opt out using controls on iOS and Android. When you tell us you don’t want to see these types of ads, your decision automatically applies to every device you use to access Facebook.” 

Users may comment on these updates for a week, at which point they will be incorporated into a final version to take effect on January 1.

Facebook’s new Terms of Service update page also makes users aware that it’s testing an e-commerce “buy now” button.

“In some regions, we’re testing a Buy button that helps people discover and purchase products without leaving Facebook,” Egan said. “We’re also working on new ways to make transactions even more convenient.”

“We hope these updates improve your experience,” Egan said. “And protecting people’s information and providing meaningful privacy controls are at the core of everything we do, and we believe today’s announcement is an important step.”

The move comes just as Twitter is launching Twitter Offers button to promote deals in the U.S.

As Twitter notes in a blog post,

Starting today (in the U.S. only), we’re beginning to test a new way for advertisers to connect with consumers on Twitter and convert them to loyal customers in their stores, on their websites and in their apps. This feature, Twitter Offers, enables advertisers to create card-linked promotions and share them directly with Twitter users.

We’re planning to work with a handful of brands to begin testing this new feature during the holidays in the U.S. Stay tuned for more information of those partners in the near future.

Below, a look at how Twitter Offers promotes an exclusive deal at The Barista Bar in San Francisco:

• Follow us: @brandchannel on Twitter and brandchannel on Facebook. Connect with Sheila on Twitter: @srshayon

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