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Privacy Groups Pan Facebook’s Site-Governance Changes In Letter To FTC


The changes Facebook announced last week to its data use policy and statement of rights and responsibilities have drawn the ire of consumer privacy groups, as six of them sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission Wednesday expressing concerns over the use of users’ personal data in advertising, The New York TimesBits blog reported.

The privacy groups claimed that Facebook’s updated site-governance documents automatically grant the social network the rights to users’ information unless users specifically revoke those rights, adding that for users under 18, “you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to the terms of this section (and the use of your name, profile picture, content, and information) on your behalf.”

The letter to the FTC said, as reported by Bits:

Facebook users who reasonably believed that their images and content would not be used for commercial purposes without their consent will now find their pictures showing up on the pages of their friends endorsing the products of Facebook’s advertisers. Remarkably, their images could even be used by Facebook to endorse products that the user does not like or even use.

Electronic Privacy Information Center Executive Director Marc Rotenberg added in an interview with Bits:

Facebook is now claiming the default setting is that it can use everyone’s name and image for advertising and commercial purposes, including those of minors, without their consent. Red lights are going off in the privacy world.

It’s an extraordinary claim to make. That’s something you can’t do without explicit consent.

Facebook Director of Global Communications and Public Affairs Debbie Frost responded to Bits:

As part of this proposed update, we revised our explanation of how things like your name, profile picture, and content may be used in connection with ads or commercial content to make it clear that you are granting Facebook permission for this use when you use our services. We have not changed our ads practices or policies — we only made things clearer for people who use our service.

The letter was signed by:

  • Rotenberg
  • Center for Digital Democracy Executive Director Jeff Chester
  • Consumer Watchdog Privacy Project Director John Simpson
  • Patient Privacy Rights Founder and Chair Deborah Peel
  • U.S. PIRG Consumer Program Director Edmund Mierzwinski
  • Privacy Rights Clearinghouse Director Beth Givens

Readers: Do you think the FTC will (or should) take any action against Facebook?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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