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Facebook vs. FTC Finally Ends in a Settlement, Facebook Now Accused of Downplaying its Significance

Are we seeing a defeated look on Facebook’s face?

Facebook has deceived consumers, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has said. To elaborate, FTC is saying that Facebook has repeatedly tricked its users by telling them that their information is safe and secure, but failed to provide adequate protection by allowing this information to be shared and made public.

After a long battle, the two entities, Facebook and the Federal Trade Commission, finally settled on November 29, 2011. The final verdict is that the former is guilty and, as a result, has to go through a series of privacy policy assessments or, in other words, a privacy audit that may last over the next 20 years. It also has to employ people to focus specifically on privacy measures, to ensure that user privacy and privacy risks are addressed in all current and future products and campaigns.
Facebook was not made to pay a fine, since the FTC does not have the authority to make Facebook do so. However, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz says that the most important thing (as of today) is to ensure consumer privacy.

Where is Mark in the Facebook of it all?

Although Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has written a follow-up blog in a very humble tone, many view it as unapologetic and careless. He wrote, “Facebook has always been committed to being transparent about the information you have stored with us — and we have led the Internet in building tools to give people the ability to see and control what they share.” This, a lot of people think, downplays the FTC’s verdict; Facebook seems to be telling the public that the issues raised by the FTC were resolved long before the settlement.
Many think that Zuckerberg is taking the incident lightly. Below is a portion of Zuckerberg’s blog post which has been much-quoted by bloggers and websites to illustrate the company’s downplaying of the incident:

As we have grown, we have tried our best to listen closely to the people who use Facebook. We also work with regulators, advocates and experts to inform our privacy practices and policies. Recently, the US Federal Trade Commission established agreements with Google and Twitter that are helping to shape new privacy standards for our industry. Today, the FTC announced a similar agreement with Facebook. These agreements create a framework for how companies should approach privacy in the United States and around the world.

On the other hand, there are those that believe Zuckerberg was sufficiently apologetic. However, it doesn’t end there. Whether Faceboook is rueful or not, the most important question now is what it will do next. Will Facebook finally prove itself a real advocate of privacy? Who knows? And one wonders if they will in fact be audited as promised over the coming 20 years.

Nonetheless, thanks to the FTC, Zuckerberg’s hand has been forced: He has given a commitment to develop tools that can help people control who can see their user info on Facebook. In the face of impending competition from formidable rivals, Zuckerberg better make sure he’ll be true to his words—not only will the FTC be on his back, but Google Plus is just waiting for the perfect opportunity to beat him at his own game.

Most importantly, he needs to deliver on his promises to consumers: Privacy is highly valued in the online industry; without it, he can kiss his millions goodbye.



Endless Rise, Inc.

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