The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently settled with Facebook for the repeated violation of its own privacy violations. The list of its violations is enormous, dating back several years, and affects millions of users’ private information. So how much did the social networking giant pay out? Zip. Nothing at all. After promising to not share private information to third-parties anymore, and agreeing to be monitored for the next 20 years for future violations, Facebook was let off without having to pay a cent.
I think that’s completely outrageous. After reading the FTC’s 19 page complaint against Facebook, I quickly understood how severe these violations were. But all Facebook had to do was promise to do what it had already promised to do and that’s it?
If you understood the extent of Facebook’s violations, and how much of your information was being shared without your consent, you might understand why I’m irate that a slap on the wrist is all Mark Zuckerberg has to worry about. The violations can be put into a few broad categories: sharing user information with advertisers without consent, sharing user information with Facebook apps without consent, and making information public after a user set their privacy settings to keep it private. Within those groups are dozens of specific cases of privacy violations, which affected millions of users. Worst of all, the FTC proved that Facebook had flat-out lied to its users when it denied doing these things several times in public statements.
Part of me wants to think that I’m overreacting a bit. Sure, for years, my photos and videos that I restricted access to for only a few friends could easily be viewed publicly. Sure, my profile information was being given to advertising agencies for years, even though I had been told that no such thing would happen when I first signed up for Facebook. And sure, several of my privacy settings were changed without my consent, or even notification. But Facebook has agreed to stop doing all of these things. When they plan on doing it, and how they’ll patch up the numerous holes in their privacy settings, they haven’t said. The FTC says they’ll be monitoring Facebook for future violations, with a hefty $16,000 fine for each one they catch, but with millions of users each with thousands of posts and hundreds of pictures and videos, how does it plan to watch over everything? I have my doubts, and considering that Facebook is going to be trialling online gambling, I am very concerned about the security of my private information.
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