Updated Monday 3:50 p.m.
Includes press conference comments by the FTC.
Facebook has been tracking your web browsing even when you’re not on the social website. Private things you thought you were only sharing with “Friends” were not kept private. And those who thought they had deleted their account really didn’t, leaving personal photos and videos still accessible.
Maneesha Mithal, Associate Director of the Privacy and Identity Protection Divsion for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was asked if Facebook advertisers could track people’s history on the web and what people were doing beyond Facebook.
“They could do that, yes,” said Mithal.
This morning eight privacy violations by Facebook were settled with the FTC.
“We allege that Facebook violated the FTC act which prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices,” said Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC.
The FTC may have slapped Facebook on its cheek but didn’t have the authority to levy any fines.
“We don’t have fining authority for violations of the FTC act,” said Liebowitz.
However, Leibowitz pointed out that once a company is under order, if they violate that order they are subject to $16,000 per violation per day.
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The FTC complaint lists a number of instances in which Facebook allegedly made privacy promises that it did not keep:
“In December 2009, Facebook changed its website so certain information that users may have designated as private – such as their Friends List – was made public.
They didn’t warn users that this change was coming, or get their approval in advance.
Facebook represented that third-party apps that users’ installed would have access only to user information that they needed to operate. In fact, the apps could access nearly all of users’ personal data – data the apps didn’t need.
Facebook told users they could restrict sharing of data to limited audiences – for example with “Friends Only.” In fact, selecting “Friends Only” did not prevent their information from being shared with third-party applications their friends used.
Facebook had a “Verified Apps” program & claimed it certified the security of participating apps. It didn’t.
Facebook promised users that it would not share their personal information with advertisers. It did.
Facebook claimed that when users deactivated or deleted their accounts, their photos and videos would be inaccessible. But Facebook allowed access to the content, even after users had deactivated or deleted their accounts.
Facebook claimed that it complied with the U.S.- EU Safe Harbor Framework that governs data transfer between the U.S. and the European Union. It didn’t.”
“Facebook is obligated to keep the promises about privacy that it makes to its hundreds of millions of users,” said Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC. “Facebook’s innovation does not have to come at the expense of consumer privacy. The FTC action will ensure it will not.”
The terms of the order are as follows:
The proposed settlement bars Facebook from making any further deceptive privacy claims, requires that the company get consumers’ approval before it changes the way it shares their data, and requires that it obtain periodic assessments of its privacy practices by independent, third-party auditors for the next 20 years.
Specifically, under the proposed settlement, Facebook is:
- barred from making misrepresentations about the privacy or security of consumers’ personal information;
- required to obtain consumers’ affirmative express consent before enacting changes that override their privacy preferences;
- required to prevent anyone from accessing a user’s material no more than 30 days after the user has deleted his or her account;
- required to establish and maintain a comprehensive privacy program designed to address privacy risks associated with the development and management of new and existing products and services, and to protect the privacy and confidentiality of consumers’ information; and
- required, within 180 days, and every two years after that for the next 20 years, to obtain independent, third-party audits certifying that it has a privacy program in place that meets or exceeds the requirements of the FTC order, and to ensure that the privacy of consumers’ information is protected.