Facebook’s privacy practices have always been controversial. It doesn’t charge its users–because its users are the product. The company sells information on its users, their social networks, services they like, and a multitude of other forms of information to advertisers and marketers. This gives Facebook a strong incentive to push privacy boundaries constantly, since the more personal information Facebook gathers on its users, the more money Facebook will be able to make by selling this information on to marketers.
Facebook starts off with a reasonably tolerable set of privacy policies, which get better in the early years, but then decline sharply.
After Facebook issued a weak set of privacy policies in 2008, it encountered sharp criticism from privacy watchdog organizations and ordinary users. This led it to improve its standards again with a revised set of standards in November 2009. However, since then there has been a stark downward trend. By Shore and Steinman’s measures, Facebook’s privacy standards today are much worse than the much-criticized 2009 standards.
Furthermore, there is little reason to think that Facebook has any intention of improving them. Facebook has grown dramatically in size and market power since 2009, and, according to Shore and Steinman, doesn’t seem especially responsive to pressure either from advocacy groups or regulators. Overall, they find that Facebook’s standards for privacy drop in 22 of the 33 areas that they study.