Facebook Timeline Violates FTC Settlement, Says One Privacy GroupBy: Josh Wolford - January 6, 2012
Does Facebook have some more FTC trouble on the horizon? If one privacy organization gets its way, Facebook’s shift the the Timeline will be anything other than frictionless.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC (yeah, EPIC), has sent a letter to the FTC asking that they look into Facebook’s new Timeline feature and whether or not it violates the previous privacy agreement the company reached with the FTC back in November of 2011.
In November, Facebook settled charges that it mislead consumers regarding their privacy, and failed to keep promises they made to protect that privacy. The settlement said that Facebook must be more forthright with its members and make sure that any changes that they make concerning privacy must be clearly and prominently spelled out.
This new EPIC letter to the FTC is particularly important because it was a letter from EPIC that began the FTC investigation that eventually led to the aforementioned settlement.
Having just reached a settlement with the Commission in which the company is required “to take several steps to make sure it lives up to its promise in the future, including giving consumers clear and prominent notice and obtaining consumers’ express consent before their information is shared beyond the privacy settings they have established,” Facebook is changing the privacy setting of its users in a way that gives the company far greater ability to disclose their personal information than in the past. With Timeline, Facebook has once again taken control over the user’s data from the user and has now made information that was essentially archived and inaccessible widely available without the consent of the user.
Basically, EPIC is concerned that with Timeline, Facebook simply chooses a bunch of information from your personal data and puts it out there for everyone to see. The impetus is on the user to edit their privacy settings in order to tweak their Timeline to only show stuff that they want it to show.
EPIC goes on to argue that since Timeline contains new categories like “Health and Wellness,” it is ripe to be used by companies mining for medical data. They argue that the Timeline makes it “a heck of a lot easier for computer criminals to unearth personal details that can be used to craft attacks.”
They also quote a source who thinks Facebook is out to “promote oversharing” and “abandon restraint,” which can be dangerous (no arguments here).
What do you think? Does the Facebook Timeline’s drudging of old posts and promotion of oversharing violate their privacy settlement? Should people be responsible for their own information – if you put it on Facebook, don’t expect it to be private unless you go to lengths to make it private? Let us know in the comments.