Facebook gets a slap on the wrist from the FTC for privacy deception
For the past two years, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has scrutinized and investigated Facebook over their privacy issues that have been voiced by millions of users for various reasons, which originally drew the attention of the FTC.
In a settlement today between Facebook and the FTC, Mark Zuckerberg agrees that Facebook must commit to user privacy and transparency or face fines of $16,000 per privacy violation in the future. Essentially, Facebook got a slap on the wrist today for their past offenses.
Some of the more egregious offenses that Facebook has done, according to the FTC are:
- In December 2009, Facebook changed its website so certain information that users may have designated as private – such as their Friends List – was made public. They didn’t warn users that this change was coming, or get their approval in advance.
- Facebook represented that third-party apps that users’ installed would have access only to user information that they needed to operate. In fact, the apps could access nearly all of users’ personal data – data the apps didn’t need.
- Facebook told users they could restrict sharing of data to limited audiences – for example with “Friends Only.” In fact, selecting “Friends Only” did not prevent their information from being shared with third-party applications their friends used.
- Facebook had a “Verified Apps” program & claimed it certified the security of participating apps. It didn’t.
- Facebook claimed that when users deactivated or deleted their accounts, their photos and videos would be inaccessible. But Facebook allowed access to the content, even after users had deactivated or deleted their accounts.
- Facebook claimed that it complied with the U.S.- EU Safe Harbor Framework that governs data transfer between the U.S. and the European Union. It didn’t.
Zuckerberg posted his own response to the settlement. Although he re-affirms his promise to the FTC and Facebook users, given the past offenses and how much Facebook pretty much lied to everyone, it’s hard to believe Zuckerberg’s being earnest in his statement.
However, knowing any future scrutiny, which by the way has given Facebook a bad rap in the name of privacy, and also future fines Facebook could be facing, they don’t have a choice but to commit to user privacy and transparency - unless they don’t get caught.