Facebook and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are said to be on the verge of reaching a settlement over the company’s privacy practices – a settlement that would fly in the face of how Facebook has implemented new features in the past. The changes would definitely go a long way in helping users obtain the privacy that they deserve.
According to the FTC, Facebook has “deceived” its members by changing the default privacy settings of the users into something that reveals more than what was initially intended by the user. The charge has spurned a series of negotiations between the company and the FTC, with the intent of coming up with policies that could best protect the users.
The deal has not yet been made final and the two sides are still negotiating over the stipulations. However, those who know something about the issue have already released some information on changes that will greatly change the way we use the social networking site.
The most blaring of all stipulations said to be contained in the agreement is this: 20 years of annual privacy audits conducted by an independent firm. Under the FTC’s watch, Facebook can no longer sneak in any changes that affect a user’s privacy without prior notice.
But it’s not just these annual audits that will make it more difficult for Facebook to implement new features. The FTC also requires that the social networking site obtain “express affirmative consent” before the company implements any changes that will possibly affect user privacy.
This means that we’ll never have to “opt out” of a service we don’t want. We don’t have to take the time to go to our settings and change them after Facebook implements something that we do not like. If the new changes push through, we will have to “opt in” to whatever new service Facebook is peddling to its users.
However, many people are still highly skeptical of how well these stipulations will help and are of the idea that Facebook will simply resort to annoyingly persistent “pop ups” in order to get people to opt in. It’s a real possibility, especially since there are still some users out there who do not care for privacy as much as others. Frictionless Sharing, for example, which has received quite a bit of criticism from the privacy advocates, is already being accepted by a large fraction of the community. In fact, the companies which embraced Frictionless Sharing are now experiencing rapid growth like never before – a big surprise, considering the amount of criticism they got from existing users and privacy advocates.