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FTC Forces a Mea Culpa Out of Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg posted a lengthy message on the Facebook blog today that includes this statement:

“I’m the first to admit that we’ve made a bunch of mistakes. In particular, I think that a small number of high profile mistakes, like Beacon four years ago and poor execution as we transitioned our privacy model two years ago, have often overshadowed much of the good work we’ve done.”

I actually feel bad for him.

The mea culpa was in response to a release from the FTC that details the 7 times Facebook made privacy promises that it didn’t keep. The majority of the instances have to do with data sharing with third party apps and advertisers. They also say Facebook allowed access to data belonging to accounts that had been deleted by the users.

What it all boils down to is this. The FTC thinks Facebook has been playing fast and loose with personal data and they want them to stop. In order to avoid being hit with hefty fines, Facebook has agreed to change their wicked ways.

“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.”

So, in other words, they promise not to lie and they have to ask permission instead of forgiveness. Yeah. Sure.

Let’s go back to Zuckerberg:

“When I built the first version of Facebook, almost nobody I knew wanted a public page on the internet. That seemed scary. But as long as they could make their page private, they felt safe sharing with their friends online. Control was key. With Facebook, for the first time, people had the tools they needed to do this. That’s how Facebook became the world’s biggest community online.  We made it easy for people to feel comfortable sharing things about their real lives.”

I haven’t always been a big supporter of Facebook, but I’m with them on this. People want their social cake and they want to eat it, too. They want to share photos from their wild night in Vegas, but when their mother sees the pics, they cry foul. Where’s my privacy!?

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You want private? Don’t put them on the internet. It’s simple, really. Always assume that anything you put on the internet will become public. Doesn’t matter if you have your Facebook set to private and you only have two friends. One friend can copy the photo and post it to his public Facebook. Now the world can see it. It’s that simple.

I’m not saying Facebook shouldn’t make every attempt to keep personal data hidden if the user wants to make it so – but I don’t believe the FTC needs to be so heavy handed about it. Surely there are more serious problems on the internet than a leaked list of Farmville players.

What do you think? Does Facebook deserve the slap-down from the FTC? And if so, did they get off easy with just promises instead of a potential $16,000 a day fine?

  • http://www.frankthinking.com Frank Reed

    Hard to say on this one because despite his apparent “sincerity” Zuckerberg still comes off as the kind of guy that you should check to see if you have all of your fingers after you shake his hand.

    I finally saw “The Social Network” this past weekend and if he is 1/100th of the persona that is portrayed in that movie then believing him in anything he says feels like a sucker play.

    Harsh? Maybe but that’s the public persona he has created while making the world a more open place. Good luck hiding it!