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Privacy groups want FTC to oppose Facebook policy changes

Demand that it protect users' rights
Thu Sep 05 2013, 13:18
A Facebook logo

SIX PRIVACY GROUPS have sent a letter to the chairwoman of the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) asking it to oppose Facebook's recent policy changes.

The letter is addressed to FTC Chair Edith Ramirez and is signed by the heads of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Consumer Watchdog and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

It asks Ramirez to look closer at Facebook's changes to its statement of rights, saying that in their present form they "will allow Facebook to routinely use the images and names of Facebook users for commercial advertising without consent".

This, they add, would violate Facebook's existing policies and the agreement reached between the social network and the FTC in 2011.

"Facebook users who reasonably believed that their images and content would not be used for commercial purposes without their consent will now find their pictures showing up on the pages of their friends endorsing the products of Facebook's advertisers," warned the letter.

"Remarkably, their images could even be used by Facebook to endorse products that the user does not like or even use. The proposed changes are broad enough to allow Facebook to resurrect programs similar to Beacon, a program that just about everyone including Facebook agreed was wrong and was subsequently shut down. It requires 'Alice in Wonderland' logic to see this as anything but a major setback for the privacy rights of Facebook users."

Worse, perhaps, according to the letter is the impact that the changes will have on people under 18 years of age.

"The impact on minors is particularly pernicious.... If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to the terms of this section (and the use of your name, profile picture, content, and information) on your behalf," it explained.

"Such 'deemed consent' eviscerates any meaningful limits over the commercial exploitation of the images and names of young Facebook users."

Facebook is also accused of "dramatically" expanding the use of personal information for advertising purposes. We asked it to comment on the letter.

"As part of this proposed update, we revised our explanation of how things like your name, profile picture and content may be used in connection with ads or commercial content to make it clear that you are granting Facebook permission for this use when you use our services," said a Facebook spokesman.

"We have not changed our ads practices or policies - we only made things clearer for people who use our service." µ


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