Six consumer privacy groups
sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commissionon Wednesday urging the FTC not to allow Facebook to implement
the privacy disclosure changesit proposed in response to
its recent $US20 million settlementof a class-action lawsuit.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Center for Digital Democracy, and four other privacy groups said the changes Facebook proposed making to two documents, the Data Use Policy and the Statements of Rights and Responsibilities, violate a 2011 FTC order.
That order, which came from the settlement of an earlier privacy suit brought by the FTC, requires Facebook to give clear notice to users and receive their express consent any time it wants to share nonpublic personal information beyond the privacy settings a user has established.
The language the privacy groups are angry about relates to Facebook’s practice of sending users’ personal information and on-site activities to third-party advertisers for use in sponsored stories on the site.
Here’s the part they’re most upset about:
By eliminating the statement that users can limit the use of their name and profile picture in sponsored content from the beginning of the clause, the privacy groups say Facebook has written a policy that allows it to share user data without the users’ consent.
The privacy consortium also maintains that a minor’s mere decision to sign up for Facebook does not amount to consent from their parent for the social network to display the minor’s personal information alongside a sponsored post.
In addition to EPIC and CDD, the letter is signed by Consumer Watchdog, Patient Privacy Rights, U.S. PIRG, and Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.
“Such ‘deemed consent’ eviscerates any meaningful limits over the commercial exploitation of the images and names of young Facebook users,” the letter said. “It requires ‘Alice in Wonderland’ logic to see this as anything but a major setback for the privacy rights of Facebook users.”
Facebook disputes the privacy groups’ account, saying that it has not changed any of its policies, but instead merely changed some of the wording in the documents that explain existing policies to its users.
In fact, a Facebook spokesperson pointed out, users can still opt out of having their data used in sponsored content by clicking the “ads” tab in their personal settings menu. The spokesperson said that even prior to the proposed changes to Facebook’s disclosure statements, users needed to opt out to prevent their information from being used in sponsored ads.
“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,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We have not changed our ads, practices, or policies. We only made things clearer for people who use our service.”
Facebook is still mulling comments users have made about the proposed changes and expects to have a finalised version of the documents ready by the middle of next week.
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