Facebook Gets Slapped on Wrist by FTC for Lack of Privacy

Can social media and privacy mix? The short answer is no. Social media is social by nature (meaning others are involved) and is media based (meaning that the materials are designed to be easily communicated and shared). When something is essentially named Share with Others, privacy is an afterthought. But that doesn’t mean it should be completely non-existant, or at least transparent – so that we know what we are sharing with others.

The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) is about to hold Facebook to stronger safeguards regarding user privacy, but in the end, it won’t matter very much because they are leaving Facebook with lots of wiggle room.

Rumor has it that Facebook will soon have to acquire users’ consent before making changes to privacy policies that affect current user data. That is a total contrast to what they’ve done in the past, which is to rewrite their privacy policies to be less protective without so much as giving users a whiff of the changes to their privacy.

It looks like Facebook, much like happened recently with Google, may have to submit to independent privacy audits annually over the next 20 years. At issue is the fact that the settlement will prohibit Facebook from making information that’s already on the site available to  a wider audience without user consent.

Here’s the rub: the ruling doesn’t affect any new features that Facebook adds to their service in the future. It’s likely going to be a retroactive slap on the wrist for rolling back user privacy in 2009.

Privacy is paramount. Dozens of privacy bills have been submitted to Congress this year alone. The Obama administration has called for a “privacy bill of rights” and the FTC last year called for the development of a “do not track” system that would make it easier for Internet users to protect their browsing habits.

Privacy settings and unannounced changes have challenged the reputation of Facebook. It’s not entirely clear if these privacy-settings guidelines are being implemented in the best interest of the end-user, or if Facebook is trying to bolster their privacy concerns, and user reception, in preparation for a pending IPO in April 2012.

John Sileo speaks on social media exposure and corporate risk. Learn more at www.ThinkLikeASpy.com.

3 replies
  1. Sally Ann Raia
    Sally Ann Raia says:

    Mr. Sileo,

    My daughters facebook account has been DISABLED for no reason.
    Her friends, pictures, messages, etc. have simply disappeared. She is thirteen years old. FACEBOOK wants me to send GOVERNMENT ISSUED ID, BIRTHDAY AND PHOTO TO reinstate her account. I’m in shock and also wondering what did they do with pretty much her “LIFE”? Facebook is like an ongoing daily diary of these kids. It’s all they live for, really. She’s devastated and I’m extremely concerned about her mental state. I’ve been trying to reach FACEBOOK for two days now, to no avail. Please would you be able to help us.
    Sally Ann Raia for my daughter Alexa Galante

    • John Sileo
      John Sileo says:

      Sally Ann, I have been on the speaking circuit for the past month which is why I am replying late. Sorry about that. I wouldn’t send Facebook any more information, as they already have enough. You will probably never reach a human being there, as they have too many users to provide customer support (that’s their excuse). On another note, it sounds like Facebook might be a little TOO important to your daughter. Some experts in this area (I am not one) suggest limits on Facebook time to make sure our kids spend in person time with their friends.

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