THE UNITED STATES Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has settled its privacy investigation of Facebook, after the social network agreed to tighten up its privacy procedures.
The FTC investigation centred around charges that Facebook "deceived" users by telling them their data was confidential, while allowing that information to be shared and made public.
Under the terms of the settlement, Facebook now has to clearly notify users before sharing any of their data, and also obtain their explicit consent to do so. However, this will only apply to Facebook users who have the appropriate privacy controls in place, so there will still be a loophole for the web site to share such data from subscribers who are lax about updating their privacy settings.
Facebook has also agreed to undertake privacy audits from an independent third party every two years.
The Facebook settlement follows hot on the heels of rival web giant Google being fined by the FTC, also for privacy violations.
Google on Thursday agreed to pay a $22.5m fine to settle charges that it misled users about the use of behaviour-tracking cookies in the Apple Safari web browser, which meant they were served with cookies when visiting Google web sites, overriding the browser privacy settings.
User privacy has long been an issue for Google, which relies on search and targeted advertising for the overwhelming majority of its revenues.
The company prompted an international outcry when officials learned that cars used to collect images for the Google Maps Street View service were eavesdropping on activity from local WiFi networks they passed.
Earlier this week, Google announced that it will be integrating Gmail messages into web search results, prompting some observers to question whether additional privacy concerns could surface for the company. µ