Facebook Privacy Issues: Groups Add to Pressure on FTC

FacebookThe Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, is already looking into privacy controls on Facebook, the top social network with more than 400 million users – more than a quarter of them under the FTC’s purview.
But Facebook’s controversial sharing of user information with third-party sites has placed renewed pressure on the FTC to take action in the increasingly challenging and complex arena of Internet privacy.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a complaint against Facebook with the FTC yesterday, on behalf of itself and more than a dozen privacy and consumer advocacy groups.
Separately, in a letter to members of Congress, the same groups claim that the FTC has failed to act on previously filed complaints regarding online privacy issues or deceptive trade practices against a software maker, Internet service provider, the U.S. mobile advertising sector and other Internet-focused entities.
The groups relayed those concerns from previous cases in a letter to the heads of several House and Senate committees with some oversight authority over the FTC.
Their most current complaint alleges that Facebook’s privacy policy changes represent “unfair and deceptive” business practices under a provision of the Federal Trade Commission Act. Facebook’s policies affect more than 115 million users of the social network within the United States, the complaint said.
“Facebook’s privacy settings and privacy policy are inconsistent with the site’s information sharing practices, and Facebook misleads users into believing that users can still maintain control over their personal information,” states the complaint.
In recent weeks, Facebook has rolled out sweeping changes that widens the sharing of user profile information on third-party sites and through plug-in applications. The sharing includes common interests, such as music, news articles and restaurants. 
The groups in their complaint say Facebook’s current privacy settings allow users to adjust who can see their Information – including “Things I Like,” “Education and Work,” “Friends,” “Current City,” “Hometown.”
But adjustments that users make to their privacy settings only affect what others can see when they navigate to that user’s profile page, they say.
“Facebook obscures the information on the user’s profile, but discloses it elsewhere – for instance, on friends’ pages, community pages, and to third party websites (including Facebook’s connection partners),” the complaint said.
Facebook provides steps on opting out, but that process has angered many users, lawmakers and privacy advocates.

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