Facebook revamps terms of service to explain how it profits from targeted ads

Embattled social media giant Facebook updated its terms of service on Thursday amid ongoing scrutiny from regulators in the U.S. and Europe regarding its business practices.

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The updates provided further insight intot how Facebook profits from advertising, how it determines whether to remove content over potential terms of service violations, the intellectual property rights users have over their photos and videos and how the platform handles content that has been deleted. Facebook said reworked terms of service do not change any of its existing practices or policies.

“People should have clear, simple explanations of how online services work and use personal information,” Facebook vice president and general counsel Anna Benckert said in a blog post, adding that the updates were meant to “clarify how Facebook makes money and better explain the rights people have when using our services.”

The changes stem from Facebook’s efforts to assuage the concerns of European regulators in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, during which the platform disclosed that a British data firm had improperly accessed personal information of at least 87 million users. Facing pressure from the European Commission, Facebook agreed in April to alter its terms and conditions to explain how it profits from targeted advertisements.

Facebook also faces potential antitrust scrutiny from U.S. regulators. The Federal Trade Commission was reportedly granted jurisdiction in June to review Facebook’s business for anti-competitive practices.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has faced unprecedented scrutiny in recent months over the company’s handling of various issues, including its role in inadvertently facilitating foreign interference in the election process. Speaking at the 2019 Aspen Ideas Festival, Zuckerberg spoke in support of federal regulation of the tech industry as a means of addressing the public’s concerns, but pushed back against the notion that antitrust scrutiny would solve lingering issues.

“It’s not the case that if you broke up Facebook into a bunch of pieces you suddenly wouldn’t have those issues. You would have those issues, you would just be much less equipped to deal with them,” Zuckerberg said.

The social media giant's recent unveiling of its cryptocurrency, Libra, exacerbated concerns about its business practices. Within days of the announcement, the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee set hearings to discuss the currency's potential implications.

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A Facebook-backed cryptocurrency will be a tough sell to users and officials already wary of the company's policies, according to Matthew Taylor, director of "The Creepy Line," a 2018 documentary about the tech industry.

"Monetary policy and money is about trust, and Facebook is currently the most untrustworthy company probably ever," Taylor said.