Facebook has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it deceived customers into believing personal information was private when in fact it was public, the commission announced Tuesday.
Facebook is obligated to keep the promises about privacy that it makes to its hundreds of millions of users, Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC said in a statement. Facebook's innovation does not have to come at the expense of consumer privacy. The FTC action will ensure it will not.
The eight-count complaint against Facebook details a variety of different promises that Facebook allegedly made which the social networking site didn't keep. According to the settlement statement, some of the complaints included charges that Facebook:
-Shared personal information with advertisers despite promising it wouldn't.
-Said photos and videos would be inaccessible to users when the accounts were deleted, even though the information was accessible.
-Made changes to its website in 2009 allowing information designated as private to become public, such as Friend Lists. The FTC said Facebook didn't warn account holders of the changes.
In response to the settlement, Facebook must ask permission from consumers before enacting changes to override privacy preferences, must prevent anyone from accessing user information more than 30 days after the account is deleted and must establish a comprehensive privacy program to address privacy risks with the service.
Furthermore, the company is required within 180 days, and every two years after that for the next 20 years, to acquire independent, third-party audits certifying that it has a privacy program in place that meets or exceeds the requirements of the FTC order.
The agreement between Facebook and the FTC will be subject to public comment for 30 days, when the FTC will decide whether to make the decision final.
In a blog post Tuesday afternoon, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg waffled between defending the company's decisions and plotting a course to move forward.
Facebook has always been committed to being transparent about the information you have stored with us--and we have led the Internet in building tools to give people the ability to see and control what they share, Zuckerberg wrote.
But we can always do better, Zuckerberg continued. I'm committed to making Facebook the leader in transparency and control around the world.
Zuckerberg announced in the blog post that he has appointed two Facebook executives, Erin Egan and Michael Richter, to serve as chief privacy officer's of the company.
This story has been updated to include details about the charges against Facebook and the terms of the settlement, and also has been updated to include a response from Facebook.