FTC: Facebook users must opt-in to future privacy setting changes

facebook ftc privacy opt inThe Federal Trade Commission announced today that it has approved a settlement with Facebook over charges that the social network “repeatedly deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public.”

The terms of the settlement mandate that Facebook must provide a “clear and prominent notice” to users before their information is shared. The social network must also obtain “express consent before sharing [users’] information beyond their privacy settings.” Further, Facebook must agree to biennial audits of its privacy practices by a third-party for the next 20 years.

Failure to abide by the terms of the settlement will result in civil fines of up to $16,000 per violation.

“We intend to monitor closely Facebook’s compliance with the order, and will not hesitate to seek civil penalties for any violations,” wrote the FTC in a statement issued today.

The FTC’s settlement with Facebook was first announced last November following an investigation that began in 2009 after public watchdog agencies claimed that Facebook had made public user data that was meant to be private. Since November, the settlement deal has been open for public comment. Today’s decision by the FTC brings the investigation to a close.

“We are pleased that the settlement, which was announced last November, has received final approval,” a Facebook spokesperson told Digital Trends via e-mail.

In a letter posted to his profile page following the initial announcement of Facebook’s settlement with the FTC, the company’s CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook had “made a bunch of mistakes,” including a “small number of high profile mistakes” that “have often overshadowed much of the good work we’ve done.”

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