Facebook must obtain user consent when changes are applied to privacy settings, and must submit to 20 years of independent audits

After learning that Facebook and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) were nearing a settlement in their privacy case earlier this month, Facebook has agreed to the FTC's terms and the case if finally over.

The settlement requires Facebook to obtain user consent when changes are applied to privacy settings, and to submit to 20 years of independent audits.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg mentioned that the company now has two new corporate officer positions to supervise Facebook products and policy in an effort to avoid such privacy troubles again.

"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," said Zuckerberg on The Facebook Blog. "I also understand that many people are just naturally skeptical of what it means for hundreds of millions of people to share so much personal information online, especially using any one service. Even if our record on privacy were perfect, I think many people would still rightfully question how their information was protected.

"It's important for people to think about this, and not one day goes by when I don't think about what it means for us to be the stewards of this community and their trust."

According to the settlement with the FTC, Facebook will be forced to pay $16,000 per day for any further violations of privacy in the future.

The U.S. government initially went after Facebook about its privacy practices when the social network made changes to its privacy settings in December 2009 without user's consent. Facebook made certain parts of a user's profile public by default, such as their name, picture and city. Users and privacy groups complained and the Electric Privacy Information Center filed a complaint with the FTC.

Some suspect that Facebook settled with the FTC because of an upcoming initial public offering that is reportedly due in 2012. Facebook is looking to raise $10 billion for the float in hopes of it valuing the company at $100 billion.

Source: Reuters

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