“Welcome to Facebook, Signup Here,” is what welcomed me nine years ago when I was joining Facebook. I signed in as a true human being without reading the privacy policy. What I didn’t know was the amount of useful information I could get from it.

Do you read privacy policies before joining social sites?

Now that am sorely invested in the understanding of social media and its use, I read policies. A social network’s privacy policy explains how the social network collects and uses the information about people who visit or use the site.  This kind of information includes your age, name, town, sex, and any other details you share with the site when you are opening it.

You need to know that social network sites collect information about you by tracking where you go, what you click on, which other websites you visit after leaving the social site.

Also Privacy policies change – sometimes dramatically- after a user creates an account.  For example, Facebook’s policy has shared thrice since I joined, so all these times I have gone back and re-read the devil’s contract that I signed. Also terms of service may have information just as important as the privacy policy, so always review those as well.

‘Why the need to read policies?’ you might be asking yourself…. continue read you will find why. Policies help you understand what the site you are visiting covers and if it has interaction with third party applications, what does it cover there. Example if you are playing Candy Crush on Facebook, before you start playing… it will ask for information from Facebook to connect you. Candy Crush is a the Third party app, so reading the policy will let you know what Facebook has about such apps. And when you authorize Candy Crush to access your information, you should also read it’s policy to under what it does with that information it received from Facebook.

Unfortunately, most privacy policies are long and difficult to understand.  So here are few points from me and some other researched sources on what to consider when reading a privacy policy:

Start at the end:

The most important portions of a privacy policy are often at the very end. For example, the end of the document typical provides contact information for a privacy contact at the company as well as the most important facts about how personally identifiable information is used. So, when pressed for time, look to the end of the document. This is more like your work contract, what do you first read, the company mission or the section that has your duties/responsibilities and remuneration?

Canceling your account:

You would want to know what happens if you decide to leave your job before you take it, right? It is the same here. If you decide to leave the social network, can you delete the account and remove all of your information?  Can all data be removed entirely or will some information be maintained by the social site?  Be aware that some social sites may make it difficult or confusing to cancel an account and instead direct dissatisfied users to “deactivate” accounts, particular you get fired.

Storage of personal Information:

Also find out how long is personal information stored when you leave the site? Note that some information may be made ‘anonymous’ after a certain period of time, some may be deleted entirely after a certain period of time, and some may be maintained in perpetuity.

Read the Facebook Data Policy here.

Note the location and language of the privacy policy: Is it hidden away on a hard-to-find webpage or can it be found easily?  Does the language seem excessively vague or incomprehensible?

When you die what happens to your information? Does the privacy policy discuss what happens to personal information after a user dies? Will it remain online or be removed?

Who owns the data that a user posts?  Does a user lose rights to information that he or she posts? Can it be used by marketers without the user’s explicit consent?  For example, can a user’s name and photos be used for advertisements? Instagram is one of the social sites that sales user’s images for advertisement and keep the dime.

Complaint Platforms

How can a user complain?  Is there a physical address, email address, website address or phone number where users can voice concerns? Some online social networks utilize independent companies to review their privacy practices.  In such cases, users who are dissatisfied by a company’s compliance to the posted privacy policy can submit complaints to the certifying company.

Here is a link to Yahoo’s policy and it has addresses where you can complain.

Communication of Privacy Changes

Find out how the social sites notify users about changes to the privacy policy? Will changes be posted to the homepage or will it only be posted in the privacy policy itself? Can users connect with a public profile on the social network that will inform them of the changes to the privacy policy, or is there a way to receive an email if changes are made?

Most times Tech and social sites tend to call press conferences and post blogs to notify the public about the changes in the policy.

It first appeared on Ugo Uganda Blog 

Patricia Kahill

is a Social Media, Content Creator and Marketer at Kahill Insights. A Development Practitioner who has no self talent but is driven by curiosity and passion; in a nutshell she is a Multipotentialite. She believes in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit which makes her a Christian.

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