A Roller-Coaster Week for Facebook

After riding a public relations roller-coaster for several days, Facebook appears to be ending the week on a peak rather than in a valley: it's apologized to the LGBTQ community for a real-name policy warning that targeted drag queens using the site, it revealed a new framework aimed at defusing criticisms of its good-news/bad-news research on nearly 700,000 unsuspecting users, and it won the European Commission's approval for its planned acquisition of WhatsApp.

As always, however, the devil is in the details. While the WhatsApp acquisition now seems settled and LGBTQ users might be less tempted now to jump ship for rival social networking site Ello, Facebook's stance on human research continues to draw scrutiny.

FTC, EU WhatsApp Hurdles

Announced this past February, Facebook's planned acquisition of the messaging service WhatsApp -- for $4 billion in cash and around $12 billion in Facebook shares -- has faced several hurdles since then. In March, the Electronic Privacy and Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy both filed complaints with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission expressing concern about the acquisition's possible effect on the privacy protections WhatsApp had promised to users.

The FTC responded in April by sending a letter to Facebook and WhatsApp specifying the privacy requirements both companies needed to meet. The letter noted that any "material changes" made in how user data is collected would require the companies to first get "affirmative consent." Without that, Facebook could face a repeat of the situation it found itself in in 2011, when it settled FTC charges that it had deceived users by failing to keep its privacy promises.

Facebook in May then requested a European Union review of its proposed WhatsApp purchase, apparently in a bid to prevent individual reviews by each of the EU's 28 member nations. The European Commission on...

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