Facebook Privacy: How the FTC Settlement Affects You

Facebook's settlement with the FTC bars the social network from making false claims about its privacy practices and requires Facebook to, among other measures, obtain users' express consent before sharing their information beyond their existing privacy settings.

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Wed, November 30, 2011

CIO — Facebook users: Get ready for more changes in the way the social network operates.

The Federal Trade Commission announced yesterday that Facebook has agreed to settle the charges that it deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, then allowing it to be shared and made public.

In a post on its website, the FTC outlines seven instances in which Facebook allegedly made promises to its users that it ultimately did not keep. Among them:

-The claim that Facebook had a "Verified Apps" program and that it certified the security of the participating apps, which it did not.
-The promise that Facebook would not share users' personal information with advertisers, which it did.
-The claim that when users deactivated or deleted their accounts, their photos and videos would be inaccessible, which was false.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took to the Facebook blog yesterday, in part to apologize for the company's mistakes. He writes:

"I'm the first to admit that we've made a bunch of mistakes. In particular, I think that a small number of high profile mistakes, like Beacon four years ago and poor execution as we transitioned our privacy model two years ago, have often overshadowed much of the good work we've done. [. . .] But we can always do better. I'm committed to making Facebook the leader in transparency and control around privacy."

The settlement outlines a number of rules that the social network must abide by to regain trust with users and federal regulators and to better respect users' privacy. Here's a look at the required changes and how they will affect your account.

[Facebook Privacy: 11 Settings to Revisit Now]

1. "Opt-in" options will take precedence—in most cases.

According to the FTC, Facebook is "required to obtain consumers' affirmative express consent before enacting changes that override their privacy preferences."

Specifically, this means that any information Facebook wants to make public—after you have already set it to private or friends-only—will require you to opt-in and will disallow Facebook from automatically making it public.

However, this rule will not apply to new settings Facebook may implement; those will not have to be opt-in.

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