FTC approves final privacy settlement with Facebook

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by Tineka Smith| 13 August 2012

Facebook and the FTC have reached an agreement to resolve privacy charges against Facebook.

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The Federal Trade Commission has reached the terms its privacy settlement with Facebook which first became public in November 2011.

Facebook's privacy practices were brought to the attention of the FTC when privacy advocacy organisation complained after Facebook introduced new privacy settings in 2009.

As part of the agreement Facebook must now give its users "clear and prominent notice" and receive their consent before sharing user information.

"The settlement requires Facebook to take several steps to make sure it lives up to its promises in the future, including by giving consumers clear and prominent notice and obtaining their express consent before sharing their information beyond their privacy settings, by maintaining a comprehensive privacy program to protect consumers' information, and by obtaining biennial privacy audits from an independent third party," said the FTC in a statement.

The FTC has noted, however, that Facebook has made no admission of guilt and rejects the allegations against it.

Facebook had been charged that it deceived its users by repeatedly allowing their information to be shared and made public after telling users it would keep their information private.

Facebook shared personal information with advertisers despite its promise not to and kept the content of users who deleted or deactivated their accounts accessible after telling users the content would be inaccessible.

"Facebook is obligated to keep the promises about privacy that it makes to its hundreds of millions of users," said Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC in a 2011 statement. "Facebook's innovation does not have to come at the expense of consumer privacy. The FTC action will ensure it will not."

The settlement subjects Facebook to 20 years of audits and if Facebook violates any term in the final FTC settlement it is liable for
"civil monetary penalties" up to $16,000 per violation per day.

Although the settlement had been reached in November of 2011 it was required to go through a public comment period and final decision by the FTC


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