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FTC approves settlement with Facebook on user privacy

August 10, 2012|By Salvador Rodriguez
  • The Federal Trade Commission announced it has come to a settlement with Facebook, resolving allegations that the social network deceived its users regarding the privacy of their information.
The Federal Trade Commission announced it has come to a settlement with… (Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty…)

The Federal Trade Commission announced it has approved a settlement with Facebook, resolving allegations that the social network deceived its users regarding the privacy of their information.

The settlement comes following an FTC complaint that said Facebook was in violation of the FTC Act because despite the company telling its users they can keep their information private on its social network, it would repeatedly allow that information to be shared and made public.

The settlement approval announced Friday will require Facebook to take several measures to ensure it does a better job communicating with its users and keeping their information private.

The social network will now have to give users "clear and prominent notice" regarding any change to their information's privacy and it will also have to gain users' consent before sharing their information. Facebook will also be required to maintain a comprehensive privacy program to protect its users, and the FTC will also require the Menlo Park, Calif., company to obtain biennial privacy audits from third parties.

If Facebook fails to comply with these requirements, the company could be disciplined.

"Notably, Facebook will be subject to civil penalties of up to $16,000 for each violation of the order," the FTC said in its official statement on the matter. "We intend to monitor closely Facebook’s compliance with the order and will not hesitate to seek civil penalties for any violations."

The FTC settlement with Facebook was initially announced in November but had to first undergo a public comment period.

"We are pleased that the settlement, which was announced last November, has received final approval," a spokesman for Facebook said in an email.

However, not all of the FTC's commissioners were onboard with the settlement.

Notably, one of the commissioners expressed concern about whether the settlement would also cover the handling of users' privacy by third-party apps on the social network, but the commission addressed that concern.

"These provisions make clear that Facebook will be liable for conduct by apps that contradicts Facebook’s promises about the privacy or security practices of these apps," the FTC said. 

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