Facebook, U.S. Government Close to a Privacy Settlement
November 11, 2011 10:40 AM
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook has agreed to take part in independent privacy audits for 20 years
It's no secret that Facebook has had privacy-related troubles in the past and present. The social networking giant has given apps access to user information such as
addresses and phone numbers
, and released features like
which automatically recognized people in your photos for speedy tagging. But after battling the issue of user privacy with the U.S. government, a settlement is finally near according to those close to the talks.
The settlement, however, does not require users to agree to all changes made on the social network. It only prohibits Facebook from making information already available on the site visible to more people than originally intended
without user's consent
. The settlement doesn't spell out how Facebook should obtain user consent.
All that's left is the final approval from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and it's expected to vote on the proposed settlement within the next few weeks. The FTC could approve it or send it back to FTC employees as well as Facebook for changes.
The U.S. government initially jumped on Facebook's case about privacy after the social network made changes to its privacy settings in December 2009. Facebook made it so that certain parts of a user's profile, such as their name, picture, and city, were public by default. Many users and privacy groups complained, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a complaint with the FTC.
While Facebook preferred a five-year privacy audit commitment, it agreed to the 20-year commitment and has even stepped up to make some useful privacy changes to the site over time. In 2010, Facebook simplified its privacy settings and created a tool that would let users share information with only a group of people. In 2011, the social site started placing privacy controls on the user's profile page for added awareness and even allows users to control who views each post.
Facebook's 20-year agreement and push for a settlement only adds to the speculation that it may file an initial public offering (IPO) in 2012. Nothing has been confirmed regarding an IPO, but it could value the company at up to $100 billion.
Back in September, it was announced that the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, which audits activities outside of the U.S. and Canada, would also probe Facebook about privacy concerns after receiving
from Austria-based privacy group Europe versus Facebook.
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