Facebook talking to FTC about changes to privacy policy

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Federal Trade Commission is discussing Facebook Inc.'s proposed changes to its privacy policy as part of its 2011 settlement with regulators.

The FTC is exploring whether Facebook's proposed privacy changes violate the settlement, said one person with knowledge of the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity.


"As in all cases, we're monitoring compliance with the order, and part of that involves interacting with Facebook," FTC spokesman Peter Kaplan said.

At issue: Facebook wants to put in place new language that says users must give the company permission to use their name, image and personal information in advertising.

Facebook plans to update its privacy policy with new language in the next few days, a Facebook spokeswoman said.

Facebook announced the proposed language two weeks ago to a firestorm of negative comments on its website.

The Menlo Park, Calif., company was supposed to make the update to its policy last week but delayed the decision after a coalition of six consumer watchdog groups asked the FTC to block the changes. The watchdogs say the changes would make it far easier for the company to use the names, images and personal information of its nearly 1.2 billion users -- including teens -- to endorse products in ads without their consent.

"We routinely discuss policy updates with the FTC, and this time is no different," Facebook said in an emailed 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."

Facebook contends it must change the language in its policy to comply with a judge's order in the settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought by consumers who were angry their names and photos were used to endorse products in ads on Facebook.

Pressure mounted on Facebook on Wednesday after Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to the FTC saying the proposed changes "raise a number of questions about whether Facebook is improperly altering its privacy policy without proper user consent."

Facebook reached a settlement with the FTC in 2011 after it was alleged the company violated users' privacy when it changed default settings to make more of their information public.
"We are glad to hear that the FTC is looking at Facebook's proposed privacy changes more closely," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, one of the groups protesting the changes. "Users, not Facebook, should decide for themselves how their personal information is used."
The New York Times reported late Wednesday that the FTC has begun an inquiry.