5 Facebook Home privacy facts

A look at the privacy implications of Facebook Home

Last week, Facebook released new software for Android phones called "Home." The software is a set of apps that you can download to put Facebook photos and messaging front and center on your mobile device.

Facebook Home's features include a cover feed that rotates through the most recent photos, status updates and links that your Facebook friends post; a redesigned notification center; and "Chat Heads," which are chat bubbles that pop up when someone messages you on the social network.

Jan Dawson, chief telecoms analyst at technology consultancy Ovum, says that for Facebook, "Home" is about becoming more embedded in the operating system and creating a broader mobile platform.

"[Home] will allow Facebook to track more of a user's behavior on devices and present more opportunities to serve up advertising, which is Facebook's main business model," he says. "And that presents the biggest obstacle to success for this experiment: Facebook's objectives and users are once again in conflict. Users don't want more advertising or tracking, and Facebook wants to do more of both."

Facebook's Chief Privacy Officer Michael Richter and Chief Privacy Officer of Policy Erin Egan recently weighed in on the privacy implications of Facebook Home. Here's a look at what they had to say.

[Want more tips, tricks and details on Facebook? Check out CIO.com's Facebook Guide.]

Facebook Home Is Optional

Android users who own the HTC One X, HTC One X+, Samsung Galaxy S III or the Samsung Galaxy II--or users who purchase the new HTC First--will have the option to download Facebook Home, but it's not mandatory. You can download it from the Google Play store starting April 12. If you purchase the HTC First, Facebook home will come preloaded on the phone.

If you want to try Facebook Home and then decide you don't like it, you can turn it off in your Home Settings, Facebook says. If you like Home but don't want it to appear as your lock screen, you have that option as well.

Facebook Collects and Stores Your Data for 90 Days

Facebook Home collects information when you interact with the service, such as liking or commenting on a post or sending a message, Facebook says. This information, such as a list of the apps you have in the Home app launcher, is stored for 90 days. Facebook says it uses this information "to provide the service and improve how it works."

If you purchase the HTC First, Facebook will collect information about system notifications, such as which app is generating them, but not the content of the notification itself, according to the social network. After 90 days, it removes identifying information from this data.

You Can Turn off Location Services

Facebook Home doesn't use location in any way that's different from the Facebook app you already have on your Android phone, the company says. And, as with any app, you can control the location permission in your phone's settings.

Facebook Home Does Not Collect Information from Non-Facebook Apps

Facebook can see that you launched a map application using the app launcher, but it will not receive information about what directions you searched for or any other activity within the application itself, Facebook says.

Some of your apps may already be Facebook-enabled so you can share your activity within the app back to Facebook, but "this integration existed long before we launched Home, and apps that have it will tell you if it is available," Facebook says.

For more information about the data Facebook collects through Home, mobile apps or the desktop version, check out Facebook's Data Use Policy.

Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking and social business for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Kristin at kburnham@cio.com

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