FTC evaluating Facebook policy changes

ROBERT GALBRAITH/REUTERS - The Facebook logo is shown at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, California May 26, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

The Federal Trade Commission is evaluating into whether changes to two of Facebook’s key privacy policies adhere to a 2011 agreement between the agency and the social network.

Facebook spokeswoman Jodi Seth confirmed that it the FTC is evaluating Facebook’s policies.

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“We routinely discuss policy updates with the FTC and this time is no different,” Seth said in a statement. “Importantly, our updated policies do not grant Facebook any additional rights to use consumer information in advertising. Rather, the new policies further clarify and explain our existing practices. We take these issues very seriously and are confident that our policies are fully compliant with our agreement with the FTC.”

Last month, the social network announced that it would be changing the language of its data use policy and its statement of rights and responsibilities, including language that clearly states what kind of information it pulls for user profiles for advertising.

In its proposed policies, Facebook makes clear that users who sign up for its services agree to have their profile pictures, names, and other information such as brands or pages they “like” included in advertisements. Some of the changes were made in response to a multimillion settlement with users who said the company had used their personal information in ads without proper notice or compensation.

Facebook said that the proposed changes did not expand the scope of its practices, but only made its policies more clear to users.

But privacy advocates were quick to note that the changes seemed to extend the scope of Facebook’s policies — in violation of a 2011 settlement that the company made with the FTC that said it would provide users with advanced notice of material changes to its policies.

On Wednesday, Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) echoed those concerns in his own letter to the Federal Trade Comissioner Edith Ramirez, and asked the agency to investigate whether the changes were in line with the earlier order.

“This troubling shift in policy raises a number of questions about whether Facebook is improperly altering its privacy policy without proper user consent,” he wrote.

(Washington Post Co. chairman and chief executive Donald E. Graham is a member of Facebook’s board of directors.)

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