Facebook to face independent privacy audits for 20 years

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Facebook is on the verge of a settlement with the United States government over charges of misinformation around users’ privacy agreements.

The world’s largest social network will agree to independent privacy audits for 20 years under a proposed settlement with US regulators over changes to its privacy settings, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Quoting people familiar with the matter, the Journal reports that the settlement will require Facebook to obtain users’ consent before making “material retroactive changes” to its privacy policies. “That means that Facebook must get consent to share data in a way that is different from how the user originally agreed the data could be used.”

The charges which were made by privacy groups in December 2009, who claimed that Facebook engaged in deceptive behavior when changing its privacy settings.

The groups filed a complaint over changes to privacy settings which made aspects of a user’s profile — such as their name, picture, gender and list of friends — public by default.

The settlement would require Facebook, which has more than 800-million members, to submit to independent privacy audits for 20 years, it said.

Google agreed to similar privacy audits in March in a settlement with the FTC over Google Buzz, which rolled out last year and spawned a slew of privacy complaints.

Facebook declined to comment on the report but in a recent interview, Facebook’s co-founder and chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, explained the social network’s privacy settings.

“I think it’s really about control,” Zuckerberg said in an interview with PBS television’s “Charlie Rose” talk show program.

“People have things that they want to share with maybe a single person or a small group,” he said. “And they have things that they’d want to share more broadly.

“And the real question for me is ‘Do people have the tools that they need in order to make those decisions well?’” he said.

“What we’ve done in the last year is we’ve made it so that any time you want to share anything, the privacy control is now right there, and it says exactly who you’re going to share with,” he said.

The proposed settlement is awaiting final approval from the commissioners of the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

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