Facebook Gets Probed By Various Governmental Agencies, Official Investigations Could Follow

Filed as News on June 1, 2010 2:02 pm

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Facebook Privacy - Mark ZuckerbergFacebook has been under fire by the U.S. Judiciary Committee for months over privacy concerns. While Facebook this week announced much easier to control privacy settings, it apparently was too little, too late for the U.S. Judiciary Committee who have now begun the steps to open a full probe into the companies activities.

Committee chair John Conyers sent a letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg in which he stated:

“We would appreciate a detailed explanation of the information about Facebook users that your company has provided to third parties without the knowledge of the account holders — particularly in circumstances in which the users did not expressly opt for this kind of information sharing.”

The committee expects Facebook to provide a full history of prior privacy polices alongside current changes and how they are affecting how Facebook has change their policies.

Facebook could also still face an additional probe by the FTC who is investigating the companies privacy policies, specifically what the Open Graph API will do to those privacy policies.

According to Mashable:

And just last week, Facebook’s D.C. office staged a special briefing for Congress staffers to explain the company’s response to the general privacy-issues-induced outcry from advocacy groups and users. Apparently, the explanation given wasn’t satisfactory.

The issue at this point appears to be less about what the social networking company has done to stop privacy policy confusion and more about what they have done in the past to protect that information and what “could” happen in the future with Open Graph and other Facebook policies.

I would suspect that the FTC or the U.S. Judiciary Committee will use information about past privacy settings and policies and current privacy settings and policies to determine if Facebook properly followed their own privacy TOS agreed to by site visitors.

On May 21st, I reported that Facebook had given user information and the information of users friends to advertisers when Facebook ads were clicked, I would suspect that the FTC or Judiciary Committee will look over how this issue occurred in determining if Facebook is acting outside of the best interest of their users.

In the meantime, as John Leyden of The Register points out, Quit Facebook Day took place yesterday (May 31st) and only an estimated 34,100 people out of nearly 450 million site users chose to quit the site. When governmental agencies attempt to determine how badly users want privacy changes Facebook can now show that only a small fraction of their customer base appears angered enough to leave the site.

On the other hand, Leyden spoke with the group responsible for the Quit Facebook Day who likened the site to smoking:

“Quitting Facebook isn’t easy,” the group said. “Facebook is engaging, enjoyable and quite frankly, addictive. Quitting something like Facebook is like quitting smoking. It’s hard to stay on the wagon long enough to actually change your habits.”

So what do you think? Is a probe into the sites actions necessary? In my opinion users choose to use Facebook and they can just as easily walk away from the web portal and use other services such as MySpace, LinkedIn and others. While I believe a more transparent privacy policy is needed, a probe is nothing more than a waste of taxpayers dollars to tell us what we already know, Facebook is walking a fine line between privacy transparency and users “requested” rights.

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  1. By Brad Shorr posted on June 1, 2010 at 3:59 pm
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    I’m a big fan of free enterprise unencumbered by politically motivated government probes, but this is a case where the public interest is best served by a little judicial scrutiny. The fact that a fine line exists means we need to know which side of the line Facebook is actually on – are its activities illegal or merely inadvisable? The issue of privacy rights is big enough to justify attention and intervention if necessary.

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  2. By Julius posted on June 1, 2010 at 10:59 pm
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    Being a Facebook user myself, I hope they’d manage to properly fix this issue.

    Reply

  3. By Alex Posicionamiento Web posted on June 2, 2010 at 1:16 pm
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    Because of the privacy topic Facebook had a serious problem. That is why a lot of people is requesting and complaining about privacy because it is really important for a person to keep their identity safe. It is true that it is also the fault of other social media users that is why their privacy is being penetrated but when you talk about script programming, Facebook can actually avoid these privacy invasions. Good thing that this article has been brought up because it is important to all people who are using social media sites to know that there are a lot of dangerous strangers out there.

    This is a great article!

    Alex

    Reply

  4. By Aumentar Visitas posted on December 6, 2010 at 5:00 am
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    Your blog seems very interesting. This article is amazing. I will visit your blog often ..

    Reply

  5. By Adelgazar Rapidamente posted on January 5, 2011 at 9:48 pm
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    I hope that facebook fix this issue soon.

    Best regards.

    Reply

  6. By Jose - colchones viscoelasticos posted on January 6, 2011 at 2:25 pm
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    There are many companies that use facebook to spy on their employees, facebook is a great control tool
    Nice article. Thanks.

    Reply

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