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Facebook, FTC settle over privacy ‘deception’

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“It is ordered”, says the FTC’s proposed settlement with Facebook, that the social network “shall not misrepresent in any manner … the extent to which it maintains the privacy or security” of its users.

And with that order, the battle between the FTC and Facebook has reached a settlement, as was foreshadowed earlier this month.

The FTC has announced the proposed settlement, under which it had alleged that Facebook “deceived consumers by telling the they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public”.

The commission’s original complaint was led by the way that information that users marked to be shared only with friends or friends-of-friends in their profiles remained available to so-called “Platform Applications” (such as games). In other words, if a user shared a game with a friend, even “friends only” information became available to the game.

Facebooks’ various arbitrary changes to its privacy policies and settings had also come under attack, along with the scope of access platform apps were given to users’ data, its disclosure of information to advertisers, the “deceptive” verified apps program, disclosure of photos and videos, and breaches of the US safe harbour framework that allows data to be sent offshore.

Under the proposed settlement, Facebook is prevented from misrepresenting users’ privacy or security; is required to get “express consent” before altering users’ privacy preferences; must prevent access to deleted account material after 30 days; will agree to establish and maintain a privacy program; and will submit to a bi-annual privacy review for the next 20 years. ®

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