Facebook and the FTC today finalized their earlier announced settlement over charges that Facebook had “deceived” its customers by “telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public.” Unlike this week’s earlier $22.5 million FTC settlement with Google, Facebook does not face any financial penalties because the FTC does not have the authority to levy fines when it enters an initial agreement like this one (it can only impose fines when companies violate the agreement). Instead, the company will have to promise that it will give its users “clear and prominent notice” and get their consent before sharing their information beyond their privacy settings. In addition, Facebook will have to submit itself to biennial privacy audits for the next 20 years and maintain a “comprehensive privacy program.”
The FTC launched its investigation into Facebook’s privacy practices in 2011 and the two organizations first announced that they had settled the charges last November. Today’s announcement marks the end of the public comment period and finalizes the settlement agreement.
Here are the details of the settlement. Facebook is:
Just like with Google’s earlier settlement, Commissioner J. Thomas Rosch dissented from the 3-1-1 decision because he questions whether “Facebook’s express denial of liability provided ‘a reason to believe’ that the settlement was ‘in the interest of the public’ and expressing concern that the final consent order may not unequivocally cover all representations made in the Facebook environment.”
You can read the full settlement order here.
Update: Added explanation for why Facebook – unlike Google – doesn’t face a financial penalty at this point.
Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with over 1 billion monthly active users. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004, initially as an exclusive network for Harvard students. It was a huge hit: in 2 weeks, half of the schools in the Boston area began demanding a Facebook network. Zuckerberg immediately recruited his friends Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes, and Eduardo Saverin to help build Facebook, and within four months, Facebook added 30 more college networks. The original...