Facebook Settlement FTC
November 29, 2011 by staff
The social network, with 800 million users world-wide, has faced repeated complaints from users that it changed policies to disclose more of their personal information without adequate notice from the company.
The FTC, in an eight-count complaint, alleged that Facebook on several occasions has made promises of privacy to users that it didn’t keep.
The settlement stems in part from changes Facebook made to its privacy settings in December 2009 to make aspects of users’ profiles–such as name, picture, city, gender and friends list–public by default. The FTC said Facebook didn’t warn users the change was coming or obtain their approval.
Among the other charges, the FTC said Facebook promised users it wouldn’t share their personal information with advertisers, but did so anyway. The agency also said Facebook shared much of its users’ data with third-party applications, despite its representation that such data-sharing would be limited.
Under the proposed settlement, Facebook would be barred from making misrepresentations about the privacy of consumers’ personal information, and it must obtain consumers’ approval before it changes the way it shares their data. The settlement also requires that Facebook to obtain periodic reviews of its privacy practices by an independent auditor for the next 20 years.
“Facebook is obligated to keep the promises about privacy that it makes to its hundreds of millions of users,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement. “Facebook’s innovation does not have to come at the expense of consumer privacy. The FTC action will ensure it will not.”
The Facebook settlement is part of a broader government push to hold companies more accountable for the personal data they collect, store and trade. The FTC last year called for the development of a “do not track” system that would make it easier for Internet users to protect their browsing activity from outside snooping. The Obama administration has called for a “privacy bill of rights” that would regulate the commercial collection of user data online. Also, lawmakers have introduced more than a dozen privacy bills in Congress this year.
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