Facebook under privacy watch for 20 years, Zuckerberg: 'we've made a bunch of mistakes'

Facebook settled with the FTC over privacy deception violations. Zuckerberg: 'We've made a bunch of mistakes.'

Facebook settled with the FTC over "charges that it deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public." Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC said, "Facebook is obligated to keep the promises about privacy that it makes to its hundreds of millions of users. Facebook's innovation does not have to come at the expense of consumer privacy. The FTC action will ensure it will not."

But according to Mark Zuckerberg, "Complete control" over who users share with has been the idea at the "core of Facebook since day one." Furthermore Zuck thinks, "we have a good history of providing transparency and control over who can see your information." In regard to privacy on Facebook, Zuck claims "privacy principles are written very deeply into our code.... privacy is so deeply embedded in all of the development we do that every day tens of thousands of servers worth of computational resources are consumed checking to make sure that on any webpage we serve, that you have access to see each of the sometimes hundreds or even thousands of individual pieces of information that come together to form a Facebook page." Yet he admits "we've made a bunch of mistakes."

You think? The FTC press release states:

The FTC's eight-count complaint against Facebook is part of the agency's ongoing effort to make sure companies live up to the privacy promises they make to American consumers. It charges that the claims that Facebook made were unfair and deceptive, and violated federal law.

Specifically, under the proposed settlement, Facebook is:

  • barred from making misrepresentations about the privacy or security of consumers' personal information;
  • required to obtain consumers' affirmative express consent before enacting changes that override their privacy preferences;
  • required to prevent anyone from accessing a user's material more than 30 days after the user has deleted his or her account;
  • required to establish and maintain a comprehensive privacy program designed to address privacy risks associated with the development and management of new and existing products and services, and to protect the privacy and confidentiality of consumers' information; and
  • required, within 180 days, and every two years after that for the next 20 years, to obtain independent, third-party audits certifying that it has a privacy program in place that meets or exceeds the requirements of the FTC order, and to ensure that the privacy of consumers' information is protected.

So in a blog post, Zuckerberg announced the creation of two new corporate privacy officer positions to "strengthen the processes that ensure that privacy control is built into our products and policies." The officers are Erin Egan the new Chief Privacy Officer for Policy, and Michael Richter the new Chief Privacy Officer for Products. "Today's announcement formalizes our commitment to providing you with control over your privacy and sharing -- and it also provides protection to ensure that your information is only shared in the way you intend."

Hopefully this implies that the social network will finally embrace privacy by design.

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