Watchdog files complaint over Facebook 'privacy' settings
EPIC violation of user expectation
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has filed a formal complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission over Facebook's recent changes to user privacy settings, claiming the changes are in violation of consumer-protection law.
In the complaint, the influential consumer watchdog urges the FTC to open an investigation into the new settings and require the social networking outfit to revert to its previous policies. "[The changes] violate user expectations, diminish user privacy, and contradict Facebook’s own representations," the complaint reads.
Facebook rolled out its new privacy settings last week. Though it asks each of its 350 million user to review some settings before they're put into place - and though it gives users the ability to customize their settings for individual pieces of data they post to the site - the changes are shamelessly designed to expose more personal info to world+dog. And some settings are beyond the user's control.
Most notably, a user's name, city, gender, photograph, and selected "fan pages" can now be viewed by anyone on the web. Whether you like it or not. Facebook has now changed its setup so that users can opt-out of exposing their friends list. In asking users to review additional settings, the site also recommends that they expose status updates, posted content, details about friends and family, and other personal data to the web at large.
In a statement shared with The New York Times, Facebook said it was "disappointed" with the EPIC complaint and defended its new policies. "Facebook’s plan to provide users control over their privacy and how they share content is unprecedented in the Internet age," the statement reads.
The company also says it discussed the new privacy setting with the FTC before they were launched.
Nonetheless, EPIC's complaint - available here (PDF) - says the new settings classify as Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices under the Federal Trade Commission Act. "EPIC urges the Commission to investigate Facebook, determine the extent of the harm to consumer privacy and safety, require Facebook to restore privacy settings that were previously available as detailed below, require Facebook to give users meaningful control over personal information, and seek appropriate injunctive and compensatory relief," it reads.
The complaint also argues that the new settings will put more data into the hands of third-party application developers. Which is merely stating the obvious. It's signed not only by EPIC but by American Library Association, the Center for Digital Democracy, the Consumer Federation of America, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, and myriad other privacy organizations. ®
<i?Update: This story has been updated to show that Facebook now lets you hide your friends list from world+dog.
Why is this a problem?
Because it's none of your fucking business who my family and friends are, that's why.
To those who say, "Nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide..."
Sometimes, people are using the internet for more than porn and kitten pictures (shocking, I know). While there are sites like LinkdIn to use for "business" contacts, it's not nearly on the level that Facebook is. However, that doesn't mean you want to or should be mixing business and pleasure. Additionally, some people do try to keep their personal lives separate from the public and/or employment piece, if only to prevent someone using things unrelated to work against them (see the Tiger Woods saga... err... wait, you can't talk about that here... see the growing list of employers who use interns and such to troll for personal details like affiliations and memberships on the internet when considering you for employment).
Idiots who post pictures of the keg stand from last weekend and make it available to everyone have it coming when a spouse or significant other sees them also making out with the cute blonde who isn't them. A teacher who does not want to or is professionally restricted from being "casual" with students is entirely another. Should a teacher than completely avoid any form of online networking and become the 21st century equivalent of a hermit, on the off chance a student might find them? Or should sites like Facebook comply with common sense, user requests and the law to give users the control over who can see what on their profile? It's not like whatever you post on the site is prevented from being used in data mining operations if you set it to "Friends Only." Facebook can pretend to make money on it's dataset with the user in it.
It seems like little to ask, just like it's little to ask the old phone book companies to keep your name and address unlisted, or asking to be on the Do Not Call list to cut down solicitations. Not only that, but there is something to be said of the dystopian ideal that all information is free and freely given on the internet. But if it is, when some script kiddy steals your credit card info from a secure site that turns out to be anything but, are you saying, "Fair game, kid. Go spend to your heart's content?" No, you're calling the cops to nail both the little schmuck and the company you did business with to the wall, and then send them away to experience the tenderness of some dude named Butch in a prison shower.
Plus, do you really want to parrot the likes of Bush and Cheney and other American right-wing idiots by saying, "Let us pry into everything about you. If you're innocent, you should agree that our efforts to catch the 1 out of 50,000,000 who are a threat to you are completely in line." Granted, the UK is now known far and wide as the most frightening example of a self-inflicted police state. Let's hope everyone else can learn from that.
If you don't have anything to hide...
"If you don't have anything to hide..."
Thanks for that, haven't laughed so much for ages.
Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large numbers.
Or in this case one troll.