I mean, a service other than Facebook, right?
Because that’s what Facebook has been doing for years. Lure you in, get your data, pictures, friends, and then, they change the rules. It’s scary, it’s creepy, it’s dishonest, and it’s made Zuckerberg one of the richest twenty-somethings in America. I’ve said so before. More than once.
It turns out the FTC agrees, and Zuckerberg has settled in our favor. Now, instead of an “opt out” privacy system, Facebook will now be an “opt in.” If you want to open your settings up, you need to open them up yourself. No more “private until we make a few changes and make sure the whole world see your vacation photos” shenanagry, as Gizmodo puts it.
The biggest change is that Facebook must give, consumers “clear and prominent notice and obtaining consumers’ express consent before their information is shared beyond the privacy settings they have established.”
Sounds a bit more reasonable. Just like your medical records, you must give consent before Facebook shares your stuff. I’ve heard the previous system employed by Facebook described as giving control and ownership of your content–photos, posts, and updates–to Facebook, effectively making it theirs. This seems to pass some of that ownership back to you, the original owner and creator.
This sounds like a no-brainer, what Facebook would want to do since it’s what Facebook’s users want it to do. It’s certainly something that Google+ has integrated in its social network, to much acclaim. Now, with the FTC’ forcing it, Facebook is finally making the change.
If you’re just jumping into this, you might be wondering: what exactly has Facebook done that is wrong?
It all goes back to 2009 and some changes that Facebook made to users privace. According to the FTC:
- In December 2009, Facebook changed its website so certain information that users may have designated as private – such as their Friends List – was made public. They didn’t warn users that this change was coming, or get their approval in advance.
- Facebook represented that third-party apps that users’ installed would have access only to user information that they needed to operate. In fact, the apps could access nearly all of users’ personal data – data the apps didn’t need.
- Facebook told users they could restrict sharing of data to limited audiences – for example with “Friends Only.” In fact, selecting “Friends Only” did not prevent their information from being shared with third-party applications their friends used.
- Facebook had a “Verified Apps” program & claimed it certified the security of participating apps. It didn’t.
- Facebook promised users that it would not share their personal information with advertisers. It did.
- Facebook claimed that when users deactivated or deleted their accounts, their photos and videos would be inaccessible. But Facebook allowed access to the content, even after users had deactivated or deleted their accounts.
- Facebook claimed that it complied with the U.S.- EU Safe Harbor Framework that governs data transfer between the U.S. and the European Union. It didn’t.
[Emphasis mine] Here’s the FTC’s full statement on the settlement.
Are you following all that? To sum up: Facebook has lied, cheated, and stolen your pictures, friend lists, data, biographical information, and so on, all in the interest of increasing their bottom line and all at your expense.
Maybe it’s time for an Occupy Facebook movement. Or just an Abandon Facebook movement.
In the meantime, as the protestors get their tents ready, I can’t help but wonder if perhaps this isn’t at least one place that government regulation might be useful. [gasp]
Sure, we could wait for the market to correct itself, but let’s be honest–Facebook has the upper hand against its users, and it is abusing users trust in a way that most don’t even know its happening. But for the Federal Trade Commission, I doubt there would have been any shift back toward privacy.
What does Mark Zuckerberg have to say for himself? In a statement, he admits (or, rather, claims) that he designed Facebook to give users control over their public presence on the web:
When I built the first version of Facebook, almost nobody I knew wanted a public page on the internet. That seemed scary. But as long as they could make their page private, they felt safe sharing with their friends online. Control was key. With Facebook, for the first time, people had the tools they needed to do this. That’s how Facebook became the world’s biggest community online. We made it easy for people to feel comfortable sharing things about their real lives.
And then, once he had lulled everyone into a false sense of security, gained access to one of the most valuable treasure troves of personal information in the world, and made a fortune equivilent to a small African nation…
That said, I’m the first to admit that we’ve made a bunch of mistakes.
Yeah. But what he lists as a mistake doesn’t bear a lot of resemblence to what the FTC said the mistake was. “Oops,” says Zuckerberg. “We stole your information, made money using it, and lied about it? Oops. My bad.”
If not for the FTC, I’m dubious that he would not have continued to spin the profit mill. Yes, he’ll be “working with the Commission [to] implement” the settlement foisted upon Facebook, but only because he has to.
Finally, I also want to reaffirm the commitment I made when I first launched Facebook. We will serve you as best we can and work every day to provide you with the best tools for you to share with each other and the world. We will continue to improve the service, build new ways for you to share and offer new ways to protect you and your information better than any other company in the world.
Next up for Zuckerberg? The IPO. What’s $17.5 billion dollars when your company is about expected to be worth $100 billion?
More importantly, what’s a slap on the wrist by the FTC (no fine, just a privacy audit for the next twenty years) when you’ve got that kind of money in the pipeline?
- Facebook and the FTC Announce A Deal, For Now (battellemedia.com)
- FTC slaps Facebook (piedtype.com)
- Facebook FTC Settlement Means 20 Years of Federal Privacy Audits (eset.com)
- Facebook Deceived Users, Should Have Been Fined (forbes.com)