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Privacy groups ask Facebook to back off privacy changes

Ian Paul | Nov. 28, 2012
Two consumer interest groups are asking Facebook to withdraw its proposed changes that would remove the ability for users to vote on modifications to Facebook's data usage and privacy policies.

Instagram affiliation

Facebook also wants the ability to share user information with "businesses that are legally part of the same group of companies that Facebook is part of." These businesses would be referred to as "Affiliates" and would most certainly include Instagram, the popular photo-sharing service Facebook acquired in 2012, which currently operates independently from Facebook.

The Center for Digital Democracy and the Electronic Privacy Information Center believe the "affiliates" designation in Facebook's data use policy is an attempt to merge user data between Facebook and Instagram. The groups argue merging user data could violate Facebook's recent privacy settlement with the Federal Trade Commission . Facebook's FTC agreement requires that the social network obtain users' express consent before sharing their data beyond what their privacy settings allow.

The privacy groups also argue that Facebook's changes amount to the company reneging on its original intention to operate Instagram independently of Facebook. "We plan on keeping features like...the ability to not share your Instagrams on Facebook if you want, and the ability to have followers and follow people separately from your friends on Facebook," Zuckerberg said in August after Facebook's Instagram buy cleared regulatory hurdles.

But whether users will be bothered by a potential Facebook-Instagram data merge is unclear. Many users already share their Instagram photos on Facebook and Twitter. And a large number of Instagram users have wide open Instagram accounts that are viewable by almost anyone thanks to Instagram's new Web-based profiles. One potential problem would be if your Facebook data began appearing on Instagram without your consent, but it's not clear whether Facebook's new data sharing policy would go that far.

If you'd like to read Facebook's proposed changes, you can find them on the Facebook Site Governancepage.

This is the second time Facebook has introduced a major policy change during a holiday weekend. The first was in early 2011 when the company announced third-party home address sharing on its developer blog right before Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Facebook was forced to reverse its home address sharing plans just days later because of public outrage.


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