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Facebook, FTC Privacy Agreement Still Hazy In Some Areas

Facebook and the Federal Trade Commission have agreed to settle charges that Facebook has reneged on promises it made to users regarding their privacy. Chief among the promises Facebook has made to the government is a submission to periodic independent privacy audits for the next 20 years. It has also agreed to a $16,000 per user, per violation fine should it cross any boundaries.

Opt In or Not?

Many privacy advocates view the agreement as a good first step, but some would like to see more details about the agreement, which is unclear in some areas.  There is some question about the basic terms of the agreement. New York Times DealBook noted that a Facebook spokesman said the agreement did not require the company to obtain “opt in” data-sharing permission for new products. The FTC press release on the agreement, however, clearly states that it does.

Retroactive or All-Encompassing?

There is also a question of whether the agreement is to be applied only retroactively to data users have given Facebook – or will it be applied to all sharing users do going forward. One privacy advocate has speculated that it is the former, and that is the reason why Facebook has delayed releasing timeline – so it wouldn't fall under the FTC agreement.

Marketers Have Some Wiggle Room

For marketers the ambiguity might prove to be a good thing, writes Robert Hof at Forbes.  He notes that the FTC's order provides very few specifics that would limit Facebook from asking users to accept more and more changes to gradually open up their information to marketers.

"For example, the recently introduced frictionless sharing of what they’re listening to or reading on other services and sites raised some privacy hackles, but the FTC didn't even come close to determining whether or not that sort of thing is OK."


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