[LINK] Facebook Changes in Trouble

Roger Clarke Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
Wed Sep 18 05:51:38 AEST 2013

                          E P I C   A l e r t
Volume 20.18                                         September 17, 2013


[2] Pressure Mounts on Facebook to Withdraw Proposed Policy Changes

Facebook has announced it will delay proposed changes allowing it to 
use the names, images, and content of Facebook users for advertising 
without consent. After EPIC and several privacy groups wrote to the 
Federal Trade Commission that the changes violate a 2011 Consent Order, 
the Commission has opened an investigation in the privacy changes, and 
Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) has written to the company, stating that 
Facebook's changes "raise[] a number of questions about whether 
Facebook is improperly altering its privacy policy without proper user 
consent and, if the changes go into effect, the degree to which 
Facebook users will lose control over their personal information." 

Facebook's announcement of the proposed changes state that the company 
may "use your name, profile picture, content, and information in 
connection with commercial, sponsored, or related content (such as a 
brand you like) served or enhanced by us." EPIC's letter explained that 
these changes violate a "cornerstone of modern privacy law": the right 
of an individual to control the use of their image for commercial 
purposes. Furthermore, the letter states, Facebook's changes violate 
the terms of a 2011 consent order with the Federal Trade Commission, 
which requires that, "prior to any sharing of a user's nonpublic user 
information by [Facebook] with any third party, which materially 
exceeds the restrictions imposed by a user's privacy setting(s)," 
Facebook must make a "clear[] and prominent[]" disclosure and obtain a 
user's "affirmative express consent."

"The urgency of FTC action is underscored also by specific actions 
taken by Facebook to deprive users of the opportunity to express their 
views on proposed changes and even to organize with other users," EPIC 
wrote, referring to Facebook's decision to removing the voting component 
of site governance and to shut down certain Facebook groups.

EPIC is a leading advocate of the rights of Facebook users and has 
helped organize several of the campaigns and investigations to safeguard 
user privacy. In 2007, EPIC organized objections to Facebook's "Beacon" 
program, which disclosed users' personal information, including their 
online purchases and video rentals, similarly without their knowledge 
or consent. Facebook ultimately abandoned "Beacon" after 50,000 users 
signed a petition protesting the program. 

Facebook once more updated the site's privacy policy and changed users' 
privacy settings in 2009. Facebook made several categories of personal 
data "publicly available information," including users' names, profile 
photos, lists of friends, fan pages and networks to which they belonged. 
However, Facebook withdrew proposed changes to the Terms of Service 
after 150,000 users, in collaboration with EPIC, formed the group "FB 
Users Against the New TOS." EPIC's complaints to the FTC in 2009 and 
2010 were instrumental in the agency's 2011 settlement with Facebook. 

Facebook users may comment on the settlement via the EPIC website at 

Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA):  Press Release Facebook Letter (Sep. 11, 2013)

EPIC et al.:  Letter to FTC re: Facebook Privacy Changes (Sep. 4, 2013)     

Facebook:  Proposed Changes to Governing Documents (Aug. 29, 2013)         

EPIC et al.:  Letter to Judge re: Fraley v. Facebook (Jul. 12, 2012)    

US District Court, SF:  Decision in Fraley v. Facebook (Aug. 17, 2012)

Federal Trade Commission:  Facebook Settlement (Jul. 27, 2013)

EPIC:  Federal Trade Commission

EPIC:  Facebook Privacy

EPIC:  Social Networking Privacy


Roger Clarke                                 http://www.rogerclarke.com/
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd      78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
Tel: +61 2 6288 6916                        http://about.me/roger.clarke
mailto:Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au                http://www.xamax.com.au/

Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Law            University of N.S.W.
Visiting Professor in Computer Science    Australian National University

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