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Privacy groups urge FTC to investigate Facebook privacy policy

Privacy advocates filed a complaint Thursday to the Federal Trade Commission about Facebook, saying a change in the popular social networking site's privacy policy violates consumer protection laws.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and nine other consumer protection groups called on the FTC to investigate the change in Facebook's privacy standards that took effect last week. They called for the agency, which oversees consumer protections, to force the Web firm to restore its previous policy.

"These changes violate user expectations, diminish user privacy, and contradict
Facebook’s own representations," EPIC said in its complaint.

The concern raised by the groups, and covered by Post Tech last week in stories about the privacy policy changes, was that some data -- specifically a person's gender, education, age and photograph -- could be available to anyone on the Web unless the user specified otherwise. That information previously wasn't available outside the Facebook network.

Founder Mark Zuckerberg, trying to allay concerns about the policy shift, put his own Web information up publicly. But that didn't settle a torrent of criticism on Twitter and blogs, with users threatening to leave the social networking site. (Washington Post Co. Chairman Donald E. Graham is on Facebook's board of directors.)

Facebook said in a statement that its new privacy policy gives users more control over personal information, allowing members to customize who gets to see separate pieces of information. For example, a user who only wants friends to see photos can set that preference while also allowing friends of friends to see status updates.

Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said the firm talked to federal regulators, including members of the FTC, before it launched the new program.

"We've had productive discussions with dozens of organizations around the world about the recent changes and we're disappointed that EPIC has chosen to share their concerns with the FTC while refusing to talk to us about them," Noyes said.

By Cecilia Kang  |  December 18, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  FTC , Privacy  
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Next: Public interest groups urge new FCC rules for TV set-top boxes

Comments

I'm pretty sure that this only applies to those who have NEVER set their privacy levels in the past.

Posted by: charley42 | December 18, 2009 7:20 AM | Report abuse

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