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FTC reviewing new Facebook user privacy policy for violations

Sep. 12, 2013 at 12:10 PM ET

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NBC News file

Facebook's new user privacy policy may face further delay — and a possible revise — now that the Federal Trade Commission is reviewing it for potential violations to a 2011 settlement.

The review — not an "investigation," says the FTC — may have been triggered by an outcry last week from privacy advocates who feared that the social network was taking too many liberties with user data, especially in the area of advertising, with the new policy. However, the commission told NBC News it's just part of the standard process.

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

In 2011, Facebook agreed to submit to audits of its privacy policies every other year for two decades, and said it would seek explicit approval from users before changing privacy controls. The new policy, which was introduced on Aug. 29 but has not yet taken effect, was subsequently criticized in a letter signed by the heads of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Center for Digital DemocracyConsumer WatchdogPatient Privacy RightsU.S. PIRG and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

Chief among the advocates' concerns was the removal of the mention of a user's ability to limit Facebook's use of "name, profile picture, content and information" — in advertising and other commercial purposes — with privacy setting controls.

Another issue was that the policy towards teenagers has been revised to suggest that any use by someone under 18 comes with the implication of consent of that person's parent or guardian.

"Such 'deemed consent' eviscerates any meaningful limits over the commercial exploitation of the images and names of young Facebook users," says the letter.

"We routinely discuss policy updates with the FTC, and this time is no different," Facebook spokesperson Jodi Seth told NBC News, 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," the statement continued. "We take these issues very seriously and are confident that our policies are fully compliant with our agreement with the FTC."

Wilson Rothman is the Technology & Science editor at NBC News Digital. Catch up with him on Twitter at @wjrothman, and join our conversation on Facebook.

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