"I founded Facebook on the idea that people want to share and connect with people in their lives," wrote Mark Zuckerberg in a November 29 Facebook blog post, "but to do this everyone needs complete control over who they share with at all times."
On Tuesday, Facebook settled Federal Trade Commission charges of customer deception. According to the FTC's press release, the social networking site "deceived customers by telling them their information on Facebook would be kept private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public."
The FTC waged an eight-count complaint against Facebook, listing a number of circumstances in which Facebook shared or allowed private information of its users to be shared. Some of those complaints include a December 2009 update to the site that caused private friends lists to be made public, access allowed to deactivated Facebook accounts in spite of the claims that this information would not be accessible, and third party apps which had access to more user information than necessary.
While not requiring the company to pay a fine at this time, the FTC has barred Facebook from making deceptive privacy claims and requires that consumers approve of any changes that will affect the way their data is shared. Additionally, Facebook has agreed to obtain independent third-party audits as to its privacy practices for the next 20 years.
Meanwhile, Zuckerberg says that he thinks Facebook's history of transparency and control of who sees users' private information has been a good one -- citing 20 new tools introduced in the past 18 months to provide more user control on Facebook pages. But he vows to do better.
In his blog post, Zuckerberg introduced two new Chief Privacy Officers - one for policy and one for products. "It is my hope," he wrote, "that this agreement makes it clear that Facebook is the leader when it comes to offering people control over the information they share online."
According to Facebook's statistics page, the site has more than 800 million active users. Of those, 75 percent are outside of the United States. More than 7 million apps and websites are integrated with Facebook, the company says.
- Mark Zuckerberg