The Federal Trade Commission [official website] (FTC) and Facebook [website] settled [settlement, PDF] on Tuesday regarding Facebook's practices relating to user privacy. The FTC filed a complaint against Facebook alleging that privacy settings on the site failed to apply to third party sites and applications [complaint, PDF]. Under the settlement agreement Facebook must make users fully aware [press release] of all changes in privacy settings that would override their previously consented to settings. Additionally, Facebook will be subject to third party audits every two years for the next 20 years. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, released a statement [blog post] admitting that Facebook had made mistakes, but promised to do better in the future.
Facebook has always been committed to being transparent about the information you have stored with us - and we have led the internet in building tools to give people the ability to see and control what they share. But we can also always do better. I'm committed to making Facebook the leader in transparency and control around privacy.Now that the FTC has proposed the settlement, the public has 30 days to comment on it. After that, the FTC will decide whether to make the proposed settlement final.
In September, members of the Congressional Privacy Caucus [official website] asked the FTC to look into Facebook's privacy settings, including allegations that Facebook continued to track user's activities after they logged out [JURIST report] of the website. This is also not the first time Facebook has been the target of governmental review. In August, the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information [official website, in German] accused Facebook of violating European data protection laws [JURIST report] through its facial recognition feature that automatically recognizes and "tags" users when others upload photos of them. In December 2010, South Korea alleged that Facebook failed to comply [JURIST report] with privacy laws and expressed concern over the handling of personal information and data. The Canadian Office of the Privacy Commissioner [official website] announced in January 2010 that it was launching a probe [JURIST report] into Facebook's privacy setting as a result of the new feature that allowed people to alter it, but left the default setting very much public.