The Truth is Out: Facebook/FTC Privacy Settlement, Broken Promises & Zuckerberg’s Mistakes


The Federal Trade Commission announced today Facebook agreed to settle to the eight-count complaint made by the FTC in regards to its user’s privacy. According to reports filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center and a combination of consumer groups, Facebook violated federal law with unfair and deceptive privacy promises.

In the FTC Privacy Settlement, complaints filed provided information that Facebook had broken it’s promise to keep it’s user’s information private, specifically in terms of their information being accessed and shared through third party apps, as well as making privacy changes without notifying users and obtain authorization to make such changes, among other things.

Allegations began in 2009, when Facebook changed the functionality of their website, which altered privacy settings without warning users or obtaining approval causing private friend’s lists to become public. Complaints were submitted indicating third party apps had deceived users in regards to accessing their information. Such apps suggested only certain information would be utilized, however apps accessed nearly all personal data. Additional complaints were filed stating the privacy feature which restricted sharing information to a select audience did not apply to third party apps used by friends, making such data accessible. The Facebook “Verified Apps” program was reported as it claimed to verify that third party apps participating on Facebook were complaining with Facebook privacy rules, which it did not. Other complaints investigated provide information that Facebook was sharing user information with advertisers, Facebook was access  photos and videos of user’s who had deactivated or deleted their profiles and finally Facebook failed to comply with the U.S.- EU Safe Harbor Framework, the commission that governs data transfer between the US and the Europeon Union.

In settlement and an effort to ensure Facebook keeps its privacy promises to American consumers, the Federal Trade Commission proposed the following take place:

  • Every 2 years for the next 20 years Facebook will undergo auditing certification to ensure consumers’ information is protected and that their privacy standards are being meet in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission.
  • To establish a new privacy program which will ensure the privacy and confidentiality of its users’ information in regards to the creation of new and existing products and services.
  • To establish the prevention of anyone accessing information from an account that has been deleted for more than 30 days
  • Can not provide deceptive privacy and security promises of users’ personal information

Following the settlement announced today, Mark Zuckerberg blogged on Facebook “I’m the first to admit that we’ve made a bunch of mistakes…” He also addressed that Facebook had already dealt with many of the complaints submitted to the FTC prior to settlement. Moving forward he announced the creation of two new corporate roles which will work alongside regulators, government agencies and privacy groups from around the globe to ensure privacy standards are being meet, users have control over their privacy and sharing and to ensure such privacy preferences are being followed by Facebook as well as third party apps.

Social media is dominating the internet, change the way we share and connect and for advertisers and social media marketers it is the way we find out more information about the people we are trying to market to.

All in all, we learn that Zuckerberg, like the rest of us is only human and as Arthur Guiterman says, “admitting error clears the score and proves you wiser than before.”  Consumers should feel more confident now that the FTC will be monitoring Facebook more closely. Consumers should also realize the only sure what for someone not to know something you do not want them to know is not to put on Facebook, Google Plus, or in an email!

If you are interested in learning more about social media, contact us today.