U.S., Facebook in Settlement Talks Over Deceptive Behavior Allegations

Features The Wall Street Journal

The Facebook logo is shown at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, California May 26, 2010. Facebook announced efforts to better guard the privacy of its more than 400 million users, addressing mounting pressure on the world's most popular online ... social network to protect personal data exchanged on its site. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS SCI TECH) (Reuters)

Facebook Inc. is finalizing a proposed settlement with federal trade regulators over charges it engaged in deceptive behavior when changing its privacy settings, according to people familiar with the situation.

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The proposed settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is awaiting final approval from agency commissioners, would require Facebook to obtain "express affirmative consent" if Facebook makes "material retroactive changes," some of the people said.

The agreement would require Facebook to submit to independent privacy audits for 20 years, the people said.

Google Inc. agreed to similar audits in March, when it settled FTC charges of falsely representing how it would use personal information.

A spokeswoman for the FTC declined to comment.

The settlement stems from an investigation that dates to December 2009, when Facebook changed its privacy settings. At the time, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg described the changes as a "simpler model for privacy control."

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The changes made aspects of users' profiles -- such as name, picture, city, gender, and friends list -- public by default. Previously, users had to choose the audience for this information.  


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