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Pinterest Updates Privacy Policy to Cover Ad Targeting, Data Collection

Pinterest Updates Privacy Policy to Cover Ad Targeting, Data Collection | Social Media TodayIt’s a pretty quiet time for social business – or, really, for all business generally. The week between Christmas and New Year is notoriously unproductive, even for those workers who are actually at work, with most people taking the opportunity to slow down, take a break, and prepare to hit the new year running. This is reflected in the amount of updates and changes we see in social over the period – while there are pretty much daily updates from the various platforms throughout the year, the Christmas/New Year break sees most blogs on shut-down, opting to give their contributors a break and hold off on any major announcements till the business world is more engaged.

That said, Pinterest has taken the opportunity of the holiday season to unveil a new update to their Privacy Policy – and at first, my initial reaction was ‘what have they got to hide?’

It’s a well-known political tactic to release bad news just before a long weekend, where people are more distracted and less likely to debate it and turn it into a bad news story for the Government. So seeing Pinterest update their Privacy policy two days after Christmas raised my curiosity – what are they trying to sneak through while no-one’s looking?

As it turns out, not much – when looking at the new Pinterest privacy policy, in comparison to the old one, there are only three changes to the wording of the document, all of which seem relatively minor, though they do have wider potential implications.

The first is in the ‘What information do we collect?’ section, which looks at how Pinterest gathers and uses user data – in the first section, looking at how Pinterest obtains user data, they’ve updated the wording to include phone numbers as a potential data point:

“When you sign up for or use our products, you voluntarily give us certain information. This can include your name, profile photo, Pins, comments, likes, the email address or phone number you used to sign up, and any other information you provide us.”

This gives Pinterest another tracking option, the ability to use a person’s phone number to find them on Pinterest, which can also be used to track your presence across other sites. Theoretically, this is a minor addition – it’s just an additional data point to work with to help advertisers track people down in order to reach their ideal target audiences - but it could also be used to create more comprehensive data profiles. For example, if you enter a person’s phone number into a website like TruCaller, you can get information like name, address and mobile carrier.

Mobile numbers can also be used to find people on other platforms like Facebook and Twitter – attaching this data to Pinterest profiles increases the capacity to create more comprehensive social profiles and link an individual to their wider online presence.  

The second change relates to how Pinterest partners and advertisers share data with Pinterest – they’ve changed the introductory wording in this section from:

“Sometimes our partners may let us collect information when you use their services, or may share with us the information they collect. For example:”

 To:

“We may get information about you and your activity off Pinterest from advertisers, partners and other third parties we work with. For example:”

This change covers Pinterest for various data collection methods – rather than noting ‘partners’ specifically, they’ve broadened the terms to include ‘advertisers, partners and other third parties we work with’. This would include app developers and data collection providers – Pinterest’s been working with different groups to enable new methods of connecting Pinterest to other platforms and processes, including things like the ability to Pin content from inside apps. This change covers them for such use, and will also enable Pinterest to use data from advertisers to better refine and target ad content, based on off platform behaviors.  

And the last change relates to how and when Pinterest shares user information. In the previous Privacy Policy, it noted that:

How and when do we share information?

Pinterest is a tool people use to find their inspirations, make them a reality, and inspire others in the process. When you create public boards and Pins, anyone can view them. You may also provide us with profile page information that anyone can view.”

That’s been updated to:

How and when do we share information?

Anyone can see the public boards and Pins you create, and the profile information you give us. We may also make this public information available through what are called “APIs” (basically a technical way to share information quickly). For example, a partner might use a Pinterest API to study what their most popular Pins are or how their Pins are being shared on Pinterest.”

The two sentences in the original have been summarized into one line, and they’ve added in mention of Pinterest’s ad APIs, which were introduced back in April. The change covers Pinterest for use of such information via the API, specifying this as another method of accessing publicly available information from the site. As Pinterest increases the use and applications of their API, this clarification will ensure they can do so under the user agreement, giving partner businesses more access to user data for targeting and research purposes.

Overall, the changes, as noted, are relatively minor – there’s no major shift in overall privacy or data collection methods used by the platform. What they do do is they enable Pinterest to create more accurate, specific data-targeting and advertising models to help businesses better reach users and focus their Pinterest ads using more data points and wider reaching demographic profiling, via the API.

They’re small changes in themselves, but they’re important in the wider scheme of Pinterest’s expanding advertising strategy. 

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