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Update: FTC to Facebook: We aren't movie business, we don't greenlight privacy policies

Update: Facebook issues response, clarifying that it didn't seek approval from FTC for new privacy policy.

Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, wants to clear the air about Facebook's new privacy policy and the company's recent suggestion that his agency checked it out before it was launched.

"We aren't generally in the business of giving general advisory opinion in advance. I certainly don't think anyone would suggest that we would pre-clear their new privacy policy," he said. "It may be good. It may be better or it may not be better. But we aren't the film industry; we don't greenlight like the film industry does."

The comments were in response to Post Tech's questions about complaints by privacy groups that Facebook's recent change in privacy settings can, in some cases, expose more of the personal data of its 300 million users.

The interview was part of a profile published two weeks ago on Leibowitz.

In no way did the FTC give the new privacy changes a thumbs up, Leibowitz said. Leibowitz was responding to a recent statement by Facebook that indicated the FTC was informed of the changes being made, which suggested to some that the agency approved of the changes.

"We discussed the privacy program with many regulators, including the FTC, prior to launch and expect to continue to work with them in the future," Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes had said in a statement.

Leibowitz said the agency received a complaint by privacy groups that the new Facebook settings can harm consumers as more personal data is exposed online. He wouldn't discuss the agency's view of the matter other than to say it is being reviewed. Online privacy will be among the agency's top priorities going forward, he said.

Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes, in response to this point, said his comments from about one month ago didn't suggest the company sought a greenlight from the FTC.

He said in a statement e-mailed this morning:

"We offered a basic preview of the privacy program with many regulators including the FTC — as well as a number of privacy and consumer groups -- prior to launch and promised to continue to work with them in the future. At no time did we seek their approval or endorsement.”

By Cecilia Kang  |  January 4, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  FTC , Facebook , Privacy  
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