13 Aug 2012

Facebook Escaped FTC Fine

Facebook got away from a fine, but must obtain users' consent before sharing information beyond the privacy settings, according to the Federal Trade Commission's final settlement with the social network.

The agreement requires Facebook to give users "clear and prominent notice", and obtain their "express consent" before giving their private data. The social network should also undergo independent privacy audits every two years.

"The Commission statement affirmed that, based on the extensive investigation of the staff, there is a strong reason to believe that the settlement is in the public interest, and that the Order's provisions make clear that Facebook will be liable for a broad range of deceptive conduct," said the FTC representatives in a press release.

The settlement follows vivid debates about charges that Facebook deceived users by telling them they could keep their information private, and then allowing it to be shared and made public several times. The Commission first announced the agreement with the social network in November last year. If Facebook doesn't respect this final settlement, it could face fines of up to $16,000 for each violation.

The Commission also settled a separate privacy complaint against Google's Safari tracking, and gave the search engine giant a record fine of $22.5 million.

The Federal Trade Commission prevents fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices. The organization enters the complaints it receives into Consumer Sentinel, an online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the US and abroad.