Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fifteen Privacy & Consumer Groups File FTC Complaint Against Facebook

It's no real secret that Facebook's latest privacy changes have stirred up a lot of conversation.  In response to those changes, fifteen agencies recently lodged a formal complaint against Facebook with the Federal Trade Commission.

Not-for-profit research center, Electronic Privacy Information Center ("EPIC") announced last week that it -- along with 14 other privacy and consumer protection organizations -- filed a complaint with the FTC accusing Facebook of engaging in unfair and deceptive trade practices. 

The complaint argues that changes Facebook made to its privacy settings adversely affect the network's users by disclosing personal information that users previously had not made available or had previously restricted.  The complaint states such changes constitute unfair and deceptive trade practices that "violate user expectations, diminish user privacy, and contradict Facebook’s own representations.  Pointing to the specifics, Paragraph 2 of the Introduction alleges:
"The following business practices are unfair and deceptive under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act:  Facebook disclosed users’ personal information to Microsoft, Yelp, and Pandora without first obtaining users’ consent; Facebook disclosed users’ information—including details concerning employment history, education, location, hometown, film preferences, music preferences, and reading preferences—to which users previously restricted access; and Facebook disclosed information to the public even when users elect to make that information available to friends only." 
EPIC has complained to the FTC about Facebook and other social networking sites (such as Google Buzz) in the past, but EPIC has made the May 5, 2010 complaint against Facebook available here.

Update: Social Media Law Student just shared a relevant post:
ACLU Weighs in on Facebook’s Privacy Issues.

1 comment:

  1. Whether a lawsuit like this works out may depend on the archaic definitions in the Stored Communications Act: