Facebook Gets Flak From Privacy Groups
September 5, 2013

Once Again, Facebook Gets Flak From Privacy Groups

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Less than a week after Facebook announced potential new changes to their Data Use Policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, privacy advocates are still crying 'foul.' Six organizations have sent a letter of complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about the proposed changes to these documents, changes which the social network was forced to make following the $20 million end to a class action lawsuit.

According to the privacy advocates, Facebook is still expecting to place users’ names and photos in advertisements without their knowledge. Now these advocates want the FTC to block the changes made to the policy, but the document as it stands is still pending.

"The changes will allow Facebook to routinely use the images and names of Facebook users for commercial advertising without consent," reads a portion of the letter published online by the New York Times“The Federal Trade Commission must act now to protect the interests of Facebook users.”

The Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Watchdog and the Electronic Privacy Information Center helped pen the complaint to the FTC, claiming that Facebook still wants to reserve the right to use profile pictures and names in advertisements without the knowledge or consent of the user.

Previously, the Facebook privacy policy read: "We do not share any of your information with advertisers (unless, of course, you give us permission)."

Following the $20 million settlement, part of which required Facebook to rewrite these documents in order to be more transparent, users received emails about the agreement's new language. The new proposed wording states that Facebook “may use all the information we receive about you to serve ads that are more relevant to you." The practice hasn’t changed, says Facebook, pointing out that they were only asked to change their wording, not their practices.

"As part of this proposed update, we revised our explanation of how things like your name, profile picture and content may be used in connection with ads or commercial content to make it clear that you are granting Facebook permission for this use when you use our services,” explained a Facebook spokesperson.

“We have not changed our ads practices or policies - we only made things clearer for people who use our service."

To put it plainly, Facebook still plans to use names and pictures in ads, though there remains some debate about the question of consent. Some argue that agreeing to the terms in the Data Use Policy is the same as consent. Others, such as those who penned this complaint, want Facebook to explicitly ask their users every time they use their information in advertisements.

The social giant first got into hot water with this practice in 2011 when some users noticed their friends’ names pop up in the ads on the right side of the site. A class action lawsuit was put together in the state of California and was only recently settled. Facebook now has to pay out $5 to users for each incident where a profile picture and name was used without the user’s knowledge.

Taking it one step further, Facebook also added in their newly reworded documents explaining that they plan to use facial recognition technology to suggest tags in photos all over the site.