FTC Launches New Inquiry Into Facebook Privacy Practices

Facebook is no stranger to Federal Trade Commission inquiries. And that's a good thing, seeing as the social networking giant is facing another one.

The FTC is launching a new inquiry just days after key privacy groups asked the regulatory agency to block proposed changes to its privacy policy. Facebook in August said it would make changes to its privacy policies to bring more clarity on how it uses member data to target ads. The changes were set to go live on Sept. 5.

"Facebook never sought out a discussion with us beforehand about these proposed changes," Peter Kaplan, a spokesman for the FTC, told the New York Times. "We're monitoring compliance with the order. Part of that involves interacting with Facebook."

Fast and Loose

Consumer Watchdog, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the Center for Digital Democracy, Patient Privacy Rights, U.S. PIRG, and Privacy Rights Clearing House signed the letter to the FTC asking for intervention.

According to these groups, the changes will allow Facebook to routinely use the images and names of Facebook users for commercial advertising without consent. They contend the changes violate Facebook's current policies and the 2011 Facebook settlement with the FTC.

"Facebook has long played fast and loose with users' data and relied on complex privacy settings to confuse its users, but these proposed changes go well beyond that," said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's Privacy director. "Facebook's overreach violates the FTC Consent Order that was put in place after the last major privacy violation; if the Commission is to retain any of its credibility, it must act immediately to enforce that order."

Impact on Minors

The privacy groups' letter said that the proposed changes' "impact on minors is particularly pernicious." In the proposed policy Facebook asserts:

"If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable...

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