The social networking site yesterday bowed to pressure from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission after it ruled Facebook had lied to its 800million users for the past five years.
The FTC claimed it had been 'unfair and deceptive' and broke the law.
In an immediate response, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg today announced that Erin Egan, who recently joined the company from law firm Covington & Burling, will become Chief Privacy Officer (Policy), while Chief Privacy Counsel Michael Richter will become Chief Privacy Officer (Products).
Their job is to make sure that feedback from users and lawmakers is taken into account when building new Facebook products and when updating current ones.
Previously, there was one Chief Privacy Officer who's job it was to oversee personal privacy.
The FTC ruled that Facebook's serious violations included allowing other companies access to users’ personal information - even after they deleted their accounts.
Under the tough agreement - which will apply in Britain - Facebook has agreed to independent periodic monitoring for the next 20 years to stop it from re-offending.
In a statement, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg admitted it had made ‘high-profile mistakes’ but claimed it had a good general record on privacy.
The ruling is an extraordinary assault on Facebook and the most damning judgment yet on its failure to respect its users.
The eight-count complaint made public last night by the FTC lays bare how the company, which makes £1.1billion a year from advertising, shamelessly exploits its users for its own gain.
It states that since 2007 areas of concern include broken promises not to share personal information with advertisers.
Facebook told users that third-party applications would only have access to the user information needed to operate, but in reality they accessed all of their personal data even if they did not need it.
The website told users they could restrict sharing of data to a limited audience, but even then it was still being shared with third-party applications their friends used.
It also claimed to have complied with U.S. and EU laws on data transfer between the two continents, but it had not.
The FTC said that Facebook’s last privacy overhaul was in 2009 but ‘they didn’t warn users that this change was coming, or get their approval in advance’.
Perhaps the most serious charge was that Facebook falsely claimed that when users deactivated or deleted their accounts their photos and videos would be inaccessible.
In reality it still allowed others to access the content.
In Britain, Facebook has a poor record on privacy and has been attacked for launching a ‘stalker button’ which allowed users to track another person’s every move.
It also sparked alarm among security experts who say that allowing outside companies to see such deeply personal information could lead to Internet spam or junk mail through the post.
More unscrupulous firms or criminals could also use it for ID theft.
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.’
Although Facebook did not receive a fine, it will have to pay £10,000 per day per violation if it repeats its behaviour.
In a statement on the official Facebook blog, Zuckerberg said: ‘Overall, I think we have a good history of providing transparency and control over who can see your information.
'That said, I’m the first to admit that we’ve made a bunch of mistakes.
'In particular, I think that a small number of high profile mistakes and poor execution as we transitioned our privacy model two years ago have often overshadowed much of the good work we’ve done.’
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