Privacy groups ask Facebook to withdraw proposed policy changes

Channels Television  
Updated November 27, 2012

The Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy urged Facebook Inc. to withdraw proposed changes on its terms of services that would allow the company to share data with acquired photo-application (Instagram), eliminate a user voting system and loosen email restrictions within the social network.

The changes which raised privacy risks for users and violate the company’s previous commitments to its over 1 billion members was unveilled by the social media network on Wednesday.

In a letter from the privacy groups to the CEO of Facebook; Mark Zuckerberg,it was stated the changes puts user privacy into question “Facebook’s proposed changes implicate the user privacy and terms of a recent settlement with the Federal Trade Commission,”By sharing information with Instagram, the letter said, Facebook could combine user profiles, ending its practice of keeping user information on the two services separate.

Facebook declined to comment on the letter.

In April, Facebook settled privacy charges with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission that it had deceived consumers and forced them to share more personal information than they intended. Under the settlement, Facebook is required to get user consent for certain changes to its privacy settings and is subject to 20 years of independent audits.

Facebook, Google and other online companies have faced increasing scrutiny and enforcement from privacy regulators as consumers entrust ever-increasing amounts of information about their personal lives to Web services.

Facebook unveiled a variety of proposed changes to its terms of service and data use polices on Wednesday, including a move to scrap a 4-year old process that can allow the social network’s roughly 1 billion users to vote on changes to its policies.

If proposed changes generate more than 7,000 public comments during a seven-day period, Facebook’s current terms of service automatically trigger a vote by users to approve the changes. But the vote is only binding if at least 30 percent of users take part, and two prior votes never reached that threshold.

The latest proposed changes had garnered more than 17,000 comments by late Monday.

Facebook also said last week that it wanted to eliminate a setting for users to control who can contact them on the social network’s email system. The company said it planned to replace the “Who can send you Facebook messages” setting with new filters for managing incoming messages.

That change is likely to increase the amount of unwanted “spam” messages that users receive, the privacy groups warned on Monday.