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Privacy groups generally cheer FTC's Facebook settlement

Grant Gross | Nov. 30, 2011
Privacy and technology groups generally applauded a wide-ranging settlement between Facebook and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission over the social-networking site's privacy practices.

The FTC does not have authority to fine Facebook for unfair and deceptive business practices, officials at the agency said. But Rotenberg and John Simpson, consumer advocate at Consumer Watchdog, said fines should be available in cases like this.

"This is an important step forward by the FTC in guaranteeing consumers' privacy," Simpson said. "The provision for privacy audits of Facebook over the next 20 years is a significant and important safeguard. Nonetheless, give the litany of Facebook's wanton failure to respect its users' privacy and its flagrant misrepresentation of its practices, there should have been substantial financial penalties."

The American Civil Liberties Union praised the settlement but called for a comprehensive privacy law in the U.S.

E-commerce trade group NetChoice gave the FTC and Facebook a "polite golf clap" for the agreement. A mutual agreement between a company and the FTC is preferable to new privacy legislation, the group said in a blog post.

"But there's a risk with agreements that are driven more by media melodrama than consumer concern: It can force formerly innovative companies to ask regulators for a permission slip before rolling out new features and free services," NetChoice said.

 

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