Facebook 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.
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.”