Friday12 August 2022

New Facebook Policies Spark FTC Inquiry

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Facebook is a company that we all love to hate and is one that none of us seem to be able to get away from. Much like Google Facebook has become so big that they feel they can do what they want with impunity; at least in regards to their users’ data. Over the last few years Facebook has come under fire for a number of things they have done with user information and even things they publicly said they wanted to do with user information. The latest one involves their attempts to use your information including picture, name, and other identifying information for… well anything they want.


The story really begins in 2011 when Facebook first was called into court for the practice of slapping user photos onto sponsored stories. While many Facebook users simply went about their business a group of people decided that they were not happy with their likeness being used without consent or compensation. They filed a class action law suit that Facebook settled (although the punishment was a slap on the wrist). What was interesting is that in the terms of the settlement the plaintiff’s lawyers left something in that actually granted Facebook the right to pursue their original course of action. They left in a clause that said Facebook had to notify users that their likenesses and information could be used in sponsored stories. The clause is contrary to the FTC ruling that Facebook must obtain express consent before using any information or likeness.

However, it looks like Facebook too the clause that suited them best and used that. They have amended their statement of rights and responsibilities:

“You give us permission to use your name, profile picture, content, and information in connection with commercial, sponsored, or related content (such as a brand you like) served or enhanced by us. This means, for example, that you permit a business or other entity to pay us to display your name and/or profile picture with your content or information, without any compensation to you. If you have selected a specific audience for your content or information, we will respect your choice when we use it.”

But wait there is more, to get around the annoying protections granted to parents when it comes to pictures and information on their kids they add:

“If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to the terms of this section (and the use of your name, profile picture, content, and information) on your behalf.”

Now correct me if I am wrong, but someone under 18 cannot represent that. Their parent or legal guardian must do that.

Overall it seems that the new R&R are a tad bit abusive in terms of what Facebook is doing with their users’ information. There are a few privacy groups that feel the same and one of them, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, is doing something about it. They have contacted the FTC about the issue and the news that the FTC is conducting a formal inquiry has popped up. The fact that it is in the inquiry stage is a good sign as it means they have already conducted much of the preliminary investigations and are now digging into the data. It is possible that the FTC will find that Facebook is in violation of their 2011 settlement which required them to gain permission from users before it enacted changes to their policies that change the way they share data.

Facebook is likely to argue that the new additions are not changing the way they “share” data as they are not actually sharing it with the companies in question. Facebook still retains the rights to it and is not passing the information on to anyone. However, that is probably not going to fly as they did not get user consent to the change and the wording is still deceptive in nature.

In the end the outcome of this is unlikely to have any significant impact on Facebook. It seems that most users simply do not care or do not know how their information is used by companies like Facebook. It has become just like Google and is an acceptable evil in the way we use the internet.

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Last modified on Friday, 13 September 2013 06:48

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