FTC settles with Facebook over privacy violations

The FTC and Facebook have reached a deal over alleged privacy violations dating to 2009. But unlike Google, which earlier this week agreed to pay the FTC $22.5 million, Facebook won't be fined a penny.

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    Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
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The FTC has been busy. 

Just two days after Google agreed to pay a record $22.5 million fine for violating a 2011 FTC consent decree, the FTC has approved the terms of a second settlement – this time with Facebook. According to the FTC, in 2009 Facebook made significant privacy changes to its interface without adequately informing users. In addition, the FTC has charged, Facebook shared some user details with third-party advertisers. 

Under the terms of the settlement, Facebook, which has not admitted any wrongdoing, will allow the government to audit its privacy practices every other year for 20 years, the AP has reported

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"The settlement requires Facebook to take several steps to make sure it lives up to its promises in the future," the FTC wrote in a statement, "including by giving consumers clear and prominent notice and obtaining their express consent before sharing their information beyond their privacy settings, by maintaining a comprehensive privacy program to protect consumers' information, and by obtaining biennial privacy audits from an independent third party."

But unlike Google, which forked over tens of millions, Facebook doesn't have to pay the FTC a dime. Is that fair? Not really, writes Mario Aguilar of Gizmodo

"It's pretty unbelievable that Facebook gets to walk without even the tiniest slap-on-the-wrist of a fine," Aguilar argues. "Let's review: Facebook lures [lots] of people into its product with a false promise, violates that promise, makes billions of dollars off the violation, and gets away with it. Basically all Facebook is agreeing to do is what it promised us in the first place."

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