Watchdog Files FTC Complaint on Facebook Privacy Changes


What's that old saying -- strike while the iron is hot? That's exactly what EPIC is doing.


According to a press release, the Electronic Privacy Information Center has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, asking the agency to investigate, and if necessary, enjoin Facebook from continuing in its new privacy practices.


The social networking powerhouse adjusted its privacy practices just last week, around the same time that the FTC hosted a roundtable discussion regarding online privacy regulation. In fact, though I don't know for certain, I'd be willing to bet an EPIC representative attended the roundtable, just like Anzen consultants and reps from so many other stakeholders did.


So why not file the complaint now, when the topic is fresh in the minds of prospective regulators as well as the minds of consumers, whether they're individuals or businesses? Doing so increases the chances that change will be effected.


According to EPIC's Web site, the organization's biggest problem with the changes is that Facebook now considers certain user information publicly available without giving users the opportunity to opt out. Specifically:

Facebook now requires mandatory disclosure of certain information. The site automatically makes some user information available to the public, including to third-party developers, without offering users a choice to opt-out. The new Facebook privacy policy states that "certain categories of information...are considered publicly available to everyone, including Facebook-enhanced applications, and therefore do not have privacy settings.


In the press release, EPIC executive director Marc Rotenberg says:

More than 100 million people in the United States subscribe to the Facebook service. The company should not be allowed to turn down the privacy dial on so many American consumers.


The Associated Press reports that Facebook indicated the changes were discussed with regulators before they were implemented.