Facebook and FTC settle privacy violation charges

Facebook and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have clinched a deal to settle charges that the popular social networking site deceived users by sharing their private information.

The proposed settlement requires Facebook to take several steps to make sure it lives up to its promises in the future, including providing users with “clear and prominent” notice, while obtaining express consent before information is shared beyond existing privacy settings.

In an official statement, FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz emphasized that the commission will make sure companies live up to the privacy promises they make to American consumers – and will not allow them to be unfair, deceptive, or violate federal law.

“Facebook is obligated to keep the promises about privacy that it makes to its hundreds of millions of users,” Leibowitz said in an official statement. 

“Facebook’s innovation does not have to come at the expense of consumer privacy. The FTC action will ensure it will not.”

The FTC’s 8-count privacy violation complaint against Facebook listed a number of instances in which the social networking violated its own privacy rules, including publicly sharing friend lists, granting third-party apps access to personal user data, failing to enforce a verified apps program and reneging on a pledge not to share personal info with advertisers.

As such, the proposed settlement bars Facebook from making any further deceptive privacy claims, requires that the company obtain user approval before it changes the way it shares user data and stipulates periodic assessments of its privacy practices by independent, third-party auditors for the next 20 years.