Privacy groups claim Facebook changes violate the Federal Trade Commission

The social media giant thought it could revise its privacy guidelines without anyone knowing. It was wrong.

Facebook recently met a considerable backlash after the release of its revised privacy policy.

On Aug. 29, Facebook announced it rewrote a privacy policy to go into effect Sept. 5 that gives Facebook the right to put Facebook-user information in advertisements at Facebook’s discretion. The new measures were prompted by a class-action lawsuit that established Facebook must get consumer consent before sharing information beyond their privacy settings.

For communicators who administer Facebook pages, it’s yet another change they must consider.

Officially, the policy states:

“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.”

Facebook can now use your profile information in advertisements without your consent. Whether you like Nike or not, you may be endorsing its next version of Michael Jordan basketball shoes.

Facebook timed the release over Labor Day weekend and expected the public to be too busy to notice the changes, claims Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.

The social media giant was not so lucky.

Even though Debbie Frost, the company’s spokeswoman, maintains that policies were clarified—not changed—the revised privacy policy drew thousands of negative comments. Users posted on the announcement’s official page that the new policy is “unethical,” “unconscionable,” and “ridiculous.”

On Friday, Sept. 6, the online announcement had more than 20,000 comments—some which have thousands of individual “likes.” Feelings range from outrage to comedic resignation.

“There’s a lot of good books I need to read, I’ll have a lot of free time on my hands,” user Aimee Bruckner comments about possibly leaving Facebook.

Other more serious comments call Facebook’s activity illegal. One user states the new policy violates various legal statutes and is “punishable by law.”

In addition to angry social media users, Facebook’s move attracted the attention of powerful privacy protection groups.

These groups, which include Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Watchdog, Patient Privacy Rights, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, joined together to present the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with a letter of complaint.

Soon after the letter was sent, Facebook caved. It decided to delay the policy and told the L.A. Times:

“We are taking the time to ensure that user comments are reviewed and taken into consideration to determine whether further updates are necessary and we expect to finalize the process in the coming week.”

The letter to the FTC says the new policy “…eviscerates any meaningful limits over the commercial exploitation of the images and names of young Facebook users” as well as “reflects a profound misunderstanding of privacy protection.”

With the extension Facebook users are safe but can do nothing until the company announces its next move.

In the meantime, dissenters to Facebook’s new privacy policies might be considering the suggestion of Facebook user Richard Babb who posted:

“Hmmm perhaps I shall move to a nicer social media neighborhood.”

Topics: PR

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